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Foiu Sender 


THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 
OF A GERMAN REBEL 


With a Preface If 

The Rt. Hon. HERBERT MORRISON, 


LONDON 

GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, LTD. 

BRO.AD WAY HOUSE, 68-74 CARTER LANE, E.G.4 



First puBlished in England, 1940 


Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Taimer Ltd., Frome and London 



CONTEIn[TS 


Preface by the Rt. Hon. Herbert 



Morrison, M.P. . . 


• 

vii 

I 

Girlhood in the Germany of the 

Kaiser 

i 

II 

Paris : Prelude to the World War 

• 

24 

III 

Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

5^ 

IV 

The Eve of Revolt 

• 

• 

81 

V 

Days of Revolution 

• 


99 

VI 

Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 


123 

VII 

A Member of the Reichstag 
Twenties . 

in 

My 

149 

VIII 

Enforced Retreat . 



171 

IX 

Return to the Struggle 



182 

X 

Years in the Reichstag . 



216 

XI 

The New Barbarians appear . 



261 

XII 

Escape from Terror 



280 

XIII 

Rededigation . . . . 



295 






PREFACE 

by the 

Rt. Hon. Herbert Morrison, M.P. 

''The Autobiography of a German Rebel'' is 
more than an autobiography. It is, I am inclined to 
think, the best study of post-war Germany from the 
Socialist point of view that I have read. 

Toni Sender, as organizer and journalist, did fine 
work for the Trade Unions and the Social Democratic 
Party of Germany from her very early years, and was 
personally known to many British Socialists and Trade 
Union leaders as a participant in international con¬ 
ferences. A Social Democrat, she later joined the 
German anti-war Independent Socialist Party and 
became a member of the Reichstag. When the 
Independent Socialist Party was captured by the 
Communists, she, with her Socialist friends who did 
not believe in dictatorship, returned to the Social 
Democratic Party. For many years she was a prom¬ 
inent member of the German Reichstag. It was only 
when her life was in actual danger that she escaped 
from the Nazi authorities in the night, the alternative 
being torture and death at their hands. Twice, hard 
work and the privations of post-war Germany caused 
T.B. and brought her near to death. She is now in 
America, where she is becoming an American citizen. 

For the student of the art of Government, for the 
friend of democracy and the opponent of Fascist 

vii 



Preface 

dictatorship, for the Socialist who desires to see the 
birth of a new world brought about by peaceful, 
fundamental, constructive change, the story of post¬ 
war Germany is a story of the most profound import¬ 
ance. We should be wrong automatically to apply 
the facts and the lessons of Germany’s post-war history 
to our own or, indeed, to any other country. We can 
legitimately generalize within broad limits about the 
economic interpretation of the history of any country, 
though even there, despite the high value of the 
materialist conception of history to our understanding 
of events, we have to take into account the particular 
circumstances of time and country. 

Germany, a great country with a proud people, 
rich in art, scientific and technical knowledge, had 
made an amazing fight against terrific odds in the 
greatest war in human history, 1914-18. At last the 
discipline of the German people—perhaps too much 
discipline—^had been broken by economic suffering 
and by decreasing faith in the Kaiser and the military 
leaders. When the Armistice came, something in the 
nature of a revolutionary condition existed in Germany, 
but it was and is not certain whether it could have 
been a decisive revolutionary situation. Over con¬ 
siderable areas of the country workers and soldiers’ 
councils were established, but it was doubtful whether 
the soldiers in particular and large numbers of the 
workers were ready for fundamental social as well as 
poHtical change. Moreover, the capitalist Govern¬ 
ments of the Allied Powers were ready to jump on 
them at any moment. The bourgeoisie and even the 
aristocracy suddenly became very democratic in form. 
They were ready for the workers to take the leading 



Preface 

part in getting rid of absolute monarchy ; some oi 
them even sought admission to the soldiers and workers’ 
councils, but so far as Miss Sender was concerned she 
resisted such admission. In any case it would appear 
that the leadership of the Social Democratic Party 
and the Trade Unions was, as a whole, unwilling for 
the rapid fundamental change which was necessary if 
Germany was to become a complete and permanent 
democracy. 

In parts of the country the workers and soldiers’ 
councils became real instruments of local government, 
but as the new political order settled down, and after 
elections had taken place, a bourgeois republic evolved 
which remained a bourgeois republic despite the on 
and off participation of the Socialists in the Govern¬ 
ment. The mistake was made of permitting a good 
deal of the old and unsuitable political apparatus to 
survive and a considerable proportion of the old un¬ 
democratic personnel to function. The result was 
that much of the civil service, much of the military 
command, and some of the police command, was 
fundamentally unfaithful to the new political order. 
The German Republic was nowhere near vigorous 
enough in introducing big changes into the apparatus 
of government and into the personnel of administration. 
For what should have been happening was not so much 
the peaceful succession of one Government by another 
Government as the result of a general election, but the 
building up of a new political order fundamentally 
different from that of the days of the Kaiser. And 
unfortunately, throughout wide circles of the political 
elements of the new Germany, there was either not the 
desire or the will or the iron determination to eliminate 



rrejace 

from the regime those features of the old which could 
not peacefully live with the new for long. The moral 
is : Think twice about having a revolution, but if you 
are going to have one at all, see that it is adequate to 
the occasion. 

Decency, enlightenment and political foresight 
among the leaders of the allied Powers could have 
helped in the establishment of a new Germany which 
could have been an almost certain guarantee of the 
peace and friendship of the nations of Europe, although 
we must not make the mistake of thinking that the 
Treaty of Versailles was entirely responsible for the 
triumph of Hitler. The German Government had 
imposed upon Russia severe terms in the Treaty of 
Brest-Litovsk, so that the reactionaries of Germany 
had nothing to shout about. But Toni Sender, of the 
international Socialists, who had kept the faith during 
the war, had every right to utter on December i, 
1918, words which to-day sound tragically prophetic : 

The heavy burden that will follow the war can be 
borne only by a society that has changed the entire 
structure of the state. The inexorable armistice con¬ 
ditions are to be attributed not to the revolution but 
to the unfortunate Treaty of Brest-Litovsk dictated 
by the regime of the Kaiser. But the other side, those 
who are now putting their feet on a defeated nation’s 
neck, should not forget that a certain kind of victory 
may imply defeat in the future.” 

Over some years, splendid social work was done by 
parliamentary and municipal institutions in Germany, 
particularly perhaps by the local authorities. But the 
evil influences continued their evil work. The central 
Government tended to become less republican in 



Preface 

spirit and action. It tolerated unconstitutional resist¬ 
ance on the Right and crushed it on the Left, instead 
of asserting its own authority and crushing resistance 
to democratic authority all round. And then came, 
on top of the weakness of the parhamentary leadership 
and . the somewhat anaemic character of the new 
Gernian democracy, economic collapse, fiuanrial 
muddle—the terrible days of inflation, when millions 
of marks were worth nothing and when the value of 
money was hardly known from hour to homr. 

Take warning from these events. Weakness in 
democratic leadership, plus economic and financi al 
muddle, may be the prelude to successful revolution 
from the Left in what was an undeveloped and un¬ 
educated country like Russia, but it is more Hkely, if 
persisted in, to lead to revolution from the Fascist 
Right in educated, highly industrialized countries 
with a big middle class, in countries like Germany, 
particularly during years of special difficulty. 

In due time government was less and less by the 
Reichstag, more and more by decree. Democracy 
was passing away, pardy because the people were 
apparently not fit for it, partly from disuse, and partly 
from conspiracies of the anti-democratic elements. 
Private armies of all sorts were permitted to exist, a 
fatal thing to tolerate in a democracy. Conspiracies 
cropped up in the Army and the conspirators were 
not smashed. And one of the greatest tragedies is 
the fact that Moscow, at a crucial moment, sent its 
delegates to Germany to split the Socialists and the 
Trade Union Movement; and in the case of the 
Socialists, but not the Unions, they succeeded only 
too well. The Independent Sociahsts in return sent 



Frejace 

their representatives to Moscow, and successful efforts 
were made to convert the majority of this party into a 
branch of the Comintern. The politically ignorant 
among the great capitalists became worse^ and worse. 
They helped the Nazis in order to destroy the Sociahsts, 
not having brains enough to see that they would get 
their own troubles from the Nazis m due course 
troubles they are now experiencing. _ The elements that 
played into the hands of the Nazis were extensive : 
die allied Governments, the rich industrialists, the 
landowners, the desperate middle class, the equally 
desperate unemployed, and—believe it_ or not—the 
Communists, who were to the fore in trymg to destroy 
democracy and who actuaUy co-operated with the 
Nazis in a number of directions. 

And now the Nazi regime has plunged Europe into 
another terrible war, after blackmailing and destroy¬ 
ing the rights of certain small nations. It is an evil 
thing, this Nazi regime, a public nuisance. It is a 
danger to all countries as well as to the people m 
Germany. It must come to an end. A new and 
better Germany should receive justice and fair play 
at the hands of the victors, but Germany—and^all 
Other nations—should be given to understand that 
under the new international order which should result 
from this war no more militarist blackmail and 

aggression will be tolerated. 

Progressive and hberty-loving people of all types 
are indebted to Miss Sender for this valuable volume. 
I wish it all success. 

HERBERT MORRISON. 

London, 

Ff ^ hruarv . IQAO. 



I 


GIRLHOOD IN THE GERMANY OF THE 
KAISER 

I MUST have been a very unpleasant child at home. 
Some years ago, while exchanging childhood memories 
with me, my sister Recha suddenly said, You 
know, I cannot recall much about you in those days, 
because you almost never talked.” 

Individuahty develops when you are very young; 
but it is not always felt as a blessing. It can be 
confusing, disturbing. You don’t know where you 
belong. An unconscious force seems to be driving 
you away from those you love. At the same time, 
you don’t know where to go. But better to err alone 
than to be always guided, protected, ordered. 

I must ask forgiveness of my parents for having 
been such a very disagreeable little thing, so shy 
and reserved in a gay home atmosphere. My parents 
demanded unquestioning obedience, and if I had 
conformed I might have been part of that warm 
and kindly household in Biebrich. Father was a very 
cheerful, humorous person, a real Rhinelander, loving 
life. During his childhood and adolescence he had 
spent years in France, for his father had been eager 
to give him a thorough education. He loved the 
Parisian atmosphere, and it was his dream, once 



Toni Sender 

life’s material struggle was concluded, to retire to 
his beloved city. Alas—^it always remained a dream. 
War and inflation prevented its realization. 

In spite of this background, father had a strongly 
authoritative attitude towards his children. His 
methods of education were very strict. We had to 
accept his authority unquestioningly. No contradic¬ 
tion was permitted. Besides, he was a deeply orthodox 
Jew, for a number of years the president of the Jewish 
con^egation, and he expected us to follow rigidly 
in his path. During my childhood at home I hardly 
talked with my father, except on those special Sundays 
when he took us on an excursion to the Taunus 
Motmtains, into the woods along the Rhine, or to 
see the old castles. Then he was a good companion, 
knowing his country well and enjoying wandering 
though sunshine and beauty. Then I dared ask 
him questions about the names of flowers, trees, 
mountains, and creeks. An excellent climber, he 
would always be at the head of our Httle caravan. 
After hours of tramping he would lead us to some 
quaint inn where we would unpack our provisions. 
Mother always gave us plenty, and each of us could 
order his favourite drink. Father would even join 
us when we started singing folk-songs or marching 
songs, and for all of us the hours were jolly ones— 
until the gloomy days of submission and obedience 
began again. ... 

Mother never came with us. She preferred to stay 
at home alone and enjoy its quiet. Bom in Switzer¬ 
land of a wealthy family which had come from France, 
she was of a more pessimistic nature than my father/ 
She had lost her mother at a very early age, her father 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

had remarried, and she had had a rather difficult 
time, which may have influenced her character. She 
was a very intelligent and energetic person, a severe 
mother, demanding absolute obedience—a demand 
which was the root of much difficulty and man y 
misunderstandings between us. I was ready to be 
convinced, but never could endure being ordered. 
In spite of this permanent inner revolt, I never doubted 
that mother was aiming only at our happiness, and 
I had full confidence in her kindness as well as in her 
efficiency. Even when more difficult times and more 
bitter discussions came, I never doubted her good 
intentions and father’s. There was not a single week 
in my life when I failed to write to them. All this 
did not prevent me, in later years when I lived in 
Frankfmrt and came to visit them for week-ends, 
from sometimes leaving town secretly in the early 
morning hours without a good-bye to anybody. 
For we might have had, on the evening before, too 
caustic a debate, in which my parents had refused 
all my requests. Yet no sooner would I arrive in 
Frankfurt than I would write them a friendly letter ; 
the unpleasantness had hurt me more ffi a n it had 
tiurt them. 

There was one place I cherished throughout the 
^ears_ of my childhood—the very old, big mulberry 
.ree in our back yard with the even older garden 
rouse. If I could only vanish by climbing into 
he tree, dream and be undisturbed, I was completely 
lappy. One day a peculiar thing happened. My 
nother, our enterprising spirit, had decided to use 
he very large grounds behind our home as a site for 
i small apartment house. But then the old mulberry 



Toni Sender 

tree, being in the way, would have to be felled. An 
orthodox Jew, however, may not fell a living tree— 
anyone who has ever seen the treeless hills of Palestine 
can understand this prohibition. What could be 
done? My father was worried. But one night 
there was a great storm. In the morning, when 
my father went to the courtyard, he called to us, 
and we all stood silent, amazed at the spectacle. 
The old tree lay on the ground ; the storm had 
uprooted it. 

It was quite natural that we children were expected 
to behave like the children of other respectable 
middle-class families. What torture those Saturday 
or Sunday promenades through the old park, with 
its huge chestnut trees, its lake on which appeared 
a procession of very haughty-looking swans, seemingly 
as class-conscious as some of the people admiring 
them! We were all very carefully dressed, and 
were expected to return home as immaculate as 
we had left. What a restraint for a very hvely child ! 
How she would have preferred to play with the 
street urchins on Rhine Avenue or along the shores 
of the river! 

I did not appreciate the beauty of the mountain- 
crowned banks of the Rhine or the charm of the old 
park of the former Duke of Nassau, until many years 
later when I had become entirely independent. One 
cm live in a paradise and still not enjoy it, for the 
air may be musty. 

The best luck that could befall me on week-ends 
was to have my father order me to stay at home, to 
^e off my Sunday ckess, and to remain all by myself 
in the house. What a wonderful punishment 1 To 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

be allowed to stay alone was all I would have wanted 
to ask for if I had only dared ! 

My parents decided that I did not choose the right 
kind of friends and companions. The children of 
the wealthier families were as stiff as I was supposed 
to be and therefore did not interest me. Those 
with whom I could romp happened to be girls of 
the less well-to-do families, most of them poor students. 
But I deeply disliked the orderly pastimes of other 
girls. When my sisters’ friends came, I always tried 
to escape their games. How much better it was to 
steal away to one of the attics, unseen by anybody. 
There I knew of big boxes of books, some classics, 
and the whole collection of the Gartenlaube, a family 
magazine of fiction that must have been fascinating, 
for I would forget to return to the lower floors until 
the coroing twilight reminded me that it was time 
to stop. I liked the attics for other reasons. There 
I explored old costumes of my mother’s, old fumitme 
of the family, and many other old things that might 
serve for masquerade purposes, though the opportunity 
never came. If I heard a noise, I vanished into 
one of the big boxes and would not move. Often 
I heard them calling me, but I never betrayed my 
retreat. 

Once, on a summer vacation, my parents sent me 
with my older sister and my brother to the Black 
Forest, where we stayed with relatives on a farm. 
For the first time I enjoyed liberty. Although I 
was only nine years old, I wrote my parents that 
I wanted to stay there and go to school in a near-by 
town. Of course they would not allow me to do 
this. When I came home, mother asked me, “ Do 



Toni Sender 

yoE love us so little that you want to leave us?’’ 
but I could not explain the reasons that had prompted 
my request. 

The atmosphere in school matched that at home. 
A very strict discipline prevailed. There was no 
time for questions from the curious. Obedience, 
obedience—always obedience ! I submitted. Prob¬ 
ably few of my teachers had any idea of the force of 
the inner rebellion that I was keeping down. My 
parents expected me to remain the best student in 
my grade even after I skipped a class. This added 
to my uneasiness. Although I did not share their 
ambition, I did not dare to disappoint them. 

Very often I was terribly bored in school. It 
puzzled me that I did not like school, for I knew that 
I was very eager to study, to learn about life and 
nature. There was only one thing that impressed 
me in my early schooldays and that followed me 
all through life. When a new principal came to 
our school, he had posters with old maxims hung 
on the walls of the classrooms. Among those in 
my class, I was struck by the one which said : Nichts 
halb zu tun ist edler Geister Art'" (To do nothing half¬ 
way is the way of noble minds). This admonition 
has accompanied me through life and has often been 
an encouragement and a reminder of the liigh 
intentions with which I started. 

Before graduating, I had to try to settle the question 
of my further education. When the principal of 
om Hohete Tdchterschule cdAltd me to his office to 
ask if I would like to skip a class and graduate at a 
very early age, it was the happiest moment of my 
childhood. Under terrific tension, I was waiting 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

for the moment for school to end. It was my secret 
desire to leave home, to go to another town, to live 
by myself, to be free, independent, to live my own 
life. 

A very strong instinct told me even in my earliest 
schooldays that I had to escape, that Biebrich was 
not the atmosphere in which I should develop best 
to become a worthy member of society. I therefore 
dehberately decided to undertake new studies and 
schooling that were not available in my home town 
or its neighbourhood and that would necessitate 
leaving home immediately. No less important was 
it that the knowledge acquired would enable me to 
make my own living as soon as possible. I did 
not disclose these considerations to my parents when 
I discussed matters with them and asked them to 
let me go to Frankfurt, about forty miles from Biebrich, 
for a two-year course in a commercial high school. 
My parents were surprised. But since they baH 
been prepared for something much more extravagant, 
they gave their consent, though not xmtil they realized 
how determined I was. That I planned not to 
come back once the two years were over, I told 
nobody. 

What a happy day this graduation day—the open 
door to liberty. There was only one obstacle to 
be overcome. I was only thirteen years old, a few 
years below the age for admission to the commercial 
high school. Father went with me to Frankfurt 
to interview the principal. We were armed with 
a favourable graduation report from the Biebrich 
school. It did not fail to impress the gentleman, 
and within a short time I was admitted to the school. 



Toni Sender 

To-day I can confess that I had no idea what 
sort of calling I was really choosing. I knew nobody 
who had ever worked in that field. The only factor 
that counted was that within two years I should 
no longer be dependent upon my family—that seemed 
to me like heaven. 

The reality, indeed, turned out somewhat less 
romantic than my dreams. Established in a boarding¬ 
house in Frankfurt kept by people who were friends 
of my parents, I soon became the target of the wit 
of all the other youngsters there. At first I did 
not understand. Were they serious or joking ? How 
could they discover so many words in the German 
language that had a double meaning? This lasted 
some time and meant a bitter apprenticeship until I 
learned how to retaliate and acquired the necessary 
nerve to open the attack. 

I very soon discovered that this new atmosphere 
was not much freer than that at home. The 
family was as conservative as my own and readily 
followed my parents’ demand that I be watched 
carefully. Nevertheless, I succeeded in drawing two 
of the girls of the family into my plot, which consisted 
of obtaining a job before my parents could learn 
about it and firustrate my intention, Another partner 
in this plot was the head of the commercial high 
school. I talked with him before the end of the 
last term, asking him to give me my diploma sometime 
before the term’s end if I succeeded in finding a 
position before then. The idea was to forestall my 
parents’ coming to take me back home when school 
was over. 

Somebody told me of a vacancy in a well-known 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

estate agent’s office. I applied for it and was asked 
to present myself. I was extremely excited but did 
not forget one important precaution. I looked, at 
fifteen years of age, very childlike. I was small and 
rather slim, with the face of a sthoolgirl; my hair 
was in two thick, dark braids. Nobody would have 
believed that I was fit for serious responsibilities. 
So I decided to ask one of my landladies to lend me 
one of her dresses and a hat. I put up my hair. 
The trick worked. I was accepted ! 

What then followed may seem quite unbelievable 
to the young generation of to-day. First my parents 
came to persuade me to abandon the job and return 
home. They failed. Then followed visits of uncles 
and aunts and of other members of the family, all 
trying to make me understand that I was disgracing 
the entire family by working for a living. I could 
not agree with this. I listened to them only to 
become more firmly determined to go on. 

In the meantime, however, I had discovered that 
the job hardly corresponded with the picture I had 
formed of this kind of existence. Wo rking ten or 
eleven hours daily only to make profits for the firm 
did not seem to give more validity to my life. 

For years I led something like a double life. I 
loved my family too much to cause them permanent 
grief and sorrow—but on the other hand I would 
not be weak and cowardly enough to give up even 
if my refusal caused trouble. The only way out 
was to avoid discussion with my family of the things 
that were occupying my miad. And I tried to hide 
all my activities from my parents and from the 
people in the boarding-house. 



Tom Sender 

It was a laborious^ hard, intense, but, as it seemed 
to us, an interesting life that we led in Frankfurt 
in those days before the World War. We ’’ means 
a group of middle-class girls and boys who desired 
to work, not because of economic need, but from 
a wish to become useful human beings. Many 
among us had left comfortable homes and prospects 
of an easy life, as I myself had done. Not only did 
we want to live our own lives, but we felt an urge 
to render service to the community. Our objective 
was not to find satisfaction for ourselves alone, but 
to make life fuller and richer for everyone. 

In our ideahsm we may have started out with 
expectations that were too high. My work in an 
estate agent’s office, one of the most important in 
Germany, offered little genuine satisfaction, especially 
during the first months. For my freedom after office 
hours I paid a high price. The days seemed end¬ 
lessly long. The atmosphere in the office was not 
on a high intellectual level. There I had my first 
close contact with people of the working class. 
None of them was a member of a union, or in any 
way connected with the labour movement. Their 
desire seemed to be to rise into the middle class, 
which I considered an unworthy ambition. I had 
just left that class and didn’t like it. My employers 
at first gave me very subordinate work, filing and 
copying. I felt it was unworthy of my two years 
of commercial high school training, but out of fear 
of losing the job I did not dare to protest. I found 
a way of defence, however—a well-known syndicalist 
weapon, although then I did not know that word, 

I tried passive resistance and slowed down the tempo 


Girlhood in the Germanj of the Kaiser 

of my work so that finally my employer tried me 
on another job, somewhat more interesting. Not 
only was more responsible work given to me, but 
my very small salary was increased several times. 
I was lucky to be promoted rather than discharged ! 

But I overcame the disappointment of the first 
year after many secret tears. I could not permit 
anyone to learn of my unhappiness and perhaps 
inform my family, who would be only too ready to 
gloat over my failure. And soon I was able to work 
out a new philosophy of life. Its main idea was : 
“ Life begins when business life is over.’" In those 
days, however, that meant that life started only at 
eight or nine o’clock in the evening. 

Although I could not find business activity fasci- 
nating, I finally developed some ambition. The 
firm met it with understanding and finally put me 
in charge of the mortgage department, thus en¬ 
trusting to a very young girl employee negotiations 
with contractors who came to seek money and 
mortgages for new buildings, dealings with the 
official appraiser, and correspondence with the mort¬ 
gage banks. My employers showed more confidence 
in me than my parents had shown, and they gave 
me a considerable amount of independence in my 
work. Later they added to my duties important 
tasks concerned with publicity. 

It was certainly not my personal experience with 
employers that set me on the road I later chose. 
My relations with them were always friendly, a 
factor that may have helped to form a philosophy 
free of any feeling of rancour towards individuals. 
From the very first I was offered a srreat many 



Toni Sender 

opportunities to become acquainted with the work¬ 
ing of our economic machinery, and I therefore 
learned by practice before my theoretical curiosity 
was awakened. 

Soon enough, however, this curiosity too was 
aroused. A burning desire to understand every aspect 
of life led me from reading to evening .classes and 
lectures. The problems of religion and'philosophy 
seemed most urgent. Among my friends at this 
time the closest was Hanna G., a girl who came 
from an environment similar to mine and who felt 
the same eagerness to learn. We had nobody to 
advise us. Both of us had received a conservative, 
orthodox education, and both of us were tormented 
by doubts. We could not “ think with our blood ”— 
to use the language of the modem barbarians—but 
only with our reason, our logic. I certainly was 
profoundly religious in my earliest days, silently 
criticizing my own family, sometimes, because it 
did not seem to be devout enough. I feared I could 
not become worthy of my own ideal of a really 
pious person, and I suffered deeply for this imper¬ 
fection. 

Yes, I thought, there must be a higher purpose in 
life than this daily struggle to be successful in a 
career and respected or even envied by others. There 
must be ideals beyond the superficial aspirations 
of common life—^ideals of absolute value, perhaps 
unattainable, but which we must at least attempt 
to reach. 

Later, we became more humble, Hanna as well 
as I. We did not find the final answers, but we 
refiised to accept faith as a cover for our ignorance, 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

since we would not regard our ignorance as final. 
We wanted to leave the door wide open for our 
searching minds. We refused to erect barriers to 
our free thinking, to abandon the quest for more 
knowledge, to renounce the use of our brains at 
any point. We gave up an easy happiness and 
harmony with our neighbours in order to claim 
the right to’ search for truth for truth’s sake. We 
were rewarded by the joy that came at certain stages 
when we realized that we had broadened, if only 
to a small extent, our comprehension of things and 
of life. 

What were we so eagerly searching for? Un¬ 
satisfied with middle-class ideology and morals, we 
strove for a more genuine foundation for our ethics. 
The deep and lasting impression that Henrik Ibsen 
made upon our generation can hardly be over¬ 
estimated. His crusade against the conventional lie 
had the effect of a clearing thunderstorm. With 
Hanna and her younger sister Toni I read one after 
another of his works ; we missed none of his plays 
which were produced. In our small circle we dis¬ 
cussed his ideas in an academic way. “ By our 
own behaviour we must give life to this concept.” 
That was understood by everyone among us. To 
older persons our attitude probably seemed childish, 
exaggerated. At no price would I, for instance, 
go to see any relative without feeling honest friend¬ 
ship for him. '‘ No concession to the conventional 
lie ” was our maxim. But of course you first had 
to detect all these lies of convention within your own 
realm. 

Most impressive to me was Ibsen’s Brandy the 



Toni Sender 

tragedy of a man struggling to devote himself to 
his duty. I could not forget the scene in which 
Brand struggles with the temptation to stay with his 
sick wife and child, rather than perform his duty, 
and the doctor holds up the mirror to him : 

So tender to his own distress, 

And to the world so merciless ; 

Alas, Alas 1 

Is this a Titan’s portraiture? 

But Brand overcame the temptation. He left his wife 
and child rather than desert Ms duty. Later in hfe, when 
it sometimes seemed almost impossible to reconcile duty 
and emotion, I often remembered Brand’s indecision. 

It must have been about this time that I said to 
my mother, Mother, you know, you must not 
bother about a dowry for me. I don’t want and 
don’t need any.” Surprised at first, she did not take 
my statement seriously. ‘‘Another of your crazy 
ideas ! ” was her answer. She thought it a romantic 
dream that would fade with time. 

A restless period followed. Almost every evening 
was devoted to classes. What nervous hours towards 
the end of the day when my office work remained 
unfinished ! Would I get out on time ? I never 
knew until the last second. And not infrequently j 
had to miss class only because of some detail that 
might have been handled earlier if my employers 
had shown a little more consideration for the private 
lives of their employees. 

Besides philosophy, we took courses in anthropol¬ 
ogy, art, and Mstory. However, we were not satisfied 
with listening to lectures and asking questions. The 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

need for further discussion was felt very strongly. 
But how to satisfy it? None of us possessed more 
than a tiny bedroom in a boarding-house. It was 
impossible for a boy or a girl to receive young people 
in his or her room. How could we meet? We 
found a way out. I discovered that the centra] 
railway station had a large writing-room which 
was almost always empty in the late evening hours. 
There we would go when the lectures or classes 
ended. We discussed the subject of the evening, 
wrote summaries of the formal and informal talks, 
and forgot how quickly the hours passed. Often 
it was nearly midnight before we were through. 

, By that hour a new problem came up for me. 
Would they open the door of my boarding-house 
to let me in? My parents had ordered that no 
keys be given to me. I was expected to be home 
early. Now it was midnight. I stood in the pouring 
rain on a dark night. There were no lights in the 
house. Nevertheless, I rang the door-bell. No answer. 
I dared to ring again and again, with the same 
negative result. Locked out! More time had passed. 
It was nearly one o’clock. Impossible for a girl of 
seventeen of childish appearance and without any 
luggage to go to a hotel. My first thought was 
Hanna—but she lived so far away and I was some¬ 
what afraid of the long, lonely trip. Would Leah 
receive me ? She was a young married woman, 
an extraordinarily kind person with much goodwill 
and understanding of youth. She received me. 

Leah became my saving angel, welcoming me 
whenever I was shelterless. But, as a consequence, 
relations with my parents and the friends at the 



Toni Sender 

boarding-house became strained. I could not easily 
forgive their locking me out so often in the cold 
night It seemed to me a very peculiar way to 
watch over my virtue. 

The desire to escape became stronger and stronger. 
Now and then my mother or father came to see 
me, and always tried to make me understand that 
I had gone far enough and should return home. 

‘‘ It is impossible to continue your mode of life,’’ 
mother said. “ Getting up at six o’clock in the 
morning to practise the piano [I had rented a piano 
for that purpose] before office hours, working all 
day, and attending classes at night.” 

My answer was, “ I am ready to listen to you—■ 
let me change my profession ! ” 

I developed new plans. There were few pro¬ 
fessions which I would not have tried out at cer¬ 
tain moments during this period. However, I was 
not yet of age, and I had to obtain my parents’ 
approval before I could begin training for a new 
held. 

I would go to see my parents to discuss some new 
project. 

“What plan are you bringing us to-day?” my 
father would ask me when he met me at the station. 
But his reaction to my answers was always negative. 
In spite of all the hospitality I was offered, I would 
leave with a new and deep sense of disappointment. 
I was most mnhappy the day they finally vetoed my 
desire to study economics. My plan was worked 
out in all details. I did not want my parents to 
contribute in any way to the cost of this study, for 
I had found for myself the combination of studvins: 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

and making a living. But their resistance remained 
firm. I probably would have tried to pursue the 
plan in spite of this, but our family physician warned 
me that if I rebelled any longer and brought further 
nervous strain upon my father, I might regret the 
consequences to his health. That, of course, ended 
it. I did not mean to lead my own fife at the expense 
of my father’s. 

Back in Frankfurt, the conflict recommenced at 
once. It was impossible to give up all interest in 
life and live like an automaton while the most fascin¬ 
ating things were going on. It was the period of 
an awakening of genuine democratic thinkin g in 
Germany under the leadership of Theodor Barth in 
Berlin. Barth was a great personality and a fascin¬ 
ating writer. We were eager to read his articles in 
the Berlin Kation. He gave us our first political 
education, awakened in us an appreciation of genuine 
self-government. Of comse, his movement did not 
last long ; most of his followers later joined the 
Social Democratic movement. Naturally, we were 
not satisfied to listen to only one opirdon. We went 
to all available meetings of political parties. Soon I 
felt a temptation to take part in the discussion, but, 
feeling too young, I did not dare. I found a way 
out by asking questions in writing. 

In our round of exploration we became interested 
in the labour movement. An ofiice workers’ union 
had just been started. Its membership was not 
yet more than two or three score. However, there 
was plenty of room for improvement in the working 
conditions of this category of workers. Hanna and 
I did not expect any advantage for ourselves, for we 



Toni Sender 

were relatively well paid. But we knew enough 
about labour conditions in many other places and 
we, tooj had experienced long hours of labour. 
Stronger than all these considerations, however, was 
the feeling : We don’t want to belong to the class 
of the idle, to the bourgeoisie, so we must demon¬ 
strate our active solidarity with labour.” We joined 
the union. If our employers learned about it, it 
probably would mean the loss of our jobs—but we 
were ready to take a chance. 

We were not satisfied to be merely dues-paying 
members and therefore volunteered to work for the 
union. How we managed to find the necessary time 
despite our full schedule I cannot now understand. 
But we did. The union gave us lists of office workers 
who were sons and daughters of organized workers. 
We were to look them up at their homes, to talk 
to them about the need of labour solidarity. This 
was not such an easy task for a still rather shy 

bourgeois ” girl, and my success was not impressive. 
How many times would the mother, a working woman, 
receive me warmly and, as soon as she learned the 
purpose of my visit, put me out of the house. Her 
daughter or her son was not to become a worker 
and be drawn into union activity. 

Another of our tasks was to watch certain firms 
during evening hours, especially on Saturday night, 
to find out how late the employees had to work. 
These firms were known for exploiting their employees 
more than the average. Having learned the facts, 
we had to be ready to testify before the police and 
eventually in court. 

Soon there came my first opportunity to take part 



Girlhood in the Gennany of the Kaiser 

in a poKtical demonstration. And it was for an 
excellent cause. Of course we were very young and 
inexperienced and hardly realized what we were 
doing. 

The voting laws of Prussia before the World War 
were revoltingly unjust. The electorate for the diet 
was divided into three classes, along property lines. 
The most wealthy, few in number, controlled the 
largest number of seats ; the second class, those of 
medium wealth, held a good number of seats. Those 
who owned no property, although they formed the 
overwhelming majority of the population, had the 
smallest number of seats. The vote was indirect. 
One could vote only for electors who appointed the 
members of the diet for their “ class.” The system 
was calculated to maintain the rule of the remnants 
of feudahsm and of the owners of heavy industry in 
this most important part of Germany. All demands 
for reform were refused. 

The left parties in Prussia decided to demonstrate 
against this monstrous law. Most of us were not of 
suffrage age, but there was no question about our 
participating. The first of these demonstrations was 
a parade, and since it was held on the outskirts of 
the town, the masses of workers who came were 
not disturbed by the authorities. The next demon¬ 
stration was to be a parade in the city itself. The 
Prussian pohce promptly prohibited it. The sponsor¬ 
ing organizations insisted that the citizens had a 
right to the streets and that the parade would be 
held. My group was naturally in the line of march. 
It was then that we made our first acquaintance with 
the old Prussian pohce truncheon. 



Toni Sender 

WHIe our group was marching along the Zeil, 
the main artery of the city, scores of armed poHce- 
men stopped us and immediately began to beat 
people. 

“ What have we done ? Is the street forbidden to 
the tax-paying citizen ? ” I dared to ask. 

The answer was a rain of blows. My back hurt 
terribly. Never in my life had I been so furious. 
I tried to rush into the next building—blocked ! The 
police stiU followed me. Finally I tried a door. It 
opened. The poHce in pursuit, I ran upstairs and 
finaUy found refuge with a strange but friendly 
family xmtil the battle was over. 

That evening remained in the memory of thou¬ 
sands as Frankfurt’s “bloody night.” Many of the 
demonstrators were seriously wounded. The entire 
affair made the Prussian police system more hated 
than ever. The day of our revenge wiU come—that 
was our secret vow j then there will be a free citizenry 
in a city and a country liberated from the rule of the 
feudal barons and their brutal mercenaries. 

I was much bothered by the danger of discovery, 
but how could I stop ? I was driven by a compulsion 
stronger than myself and had to go on along the 
road on which I had started. Not satisfied with 
only slight improvements in the condition of the 
wor^g class, I raised the question : “Is it not 
possible to organize a world in which one can really 
live one’s ideals, not merely profess them ? ” With 
a small group of friends, I talked with the librarian 
in the labour library and thus came into contact 
with books on socialism. It was difficult stuff to 
comprehend. We needed time for this complicated 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

study, so we decided to meet in the park in the early 
morning before office hours to read and study together. 
Older people said we were crazy—but they had 
no idea of the satisfaction we felt when our efforts 
were compensated by the unfolding of a new world. 

And we enjoyed those fresh morning hours, not 
only as students, but also as lovers of nature. The 
park in Frankfurt encircles the inner city like a 
ribbon. Benches under the shadowy trees offered 
us a welcome, and the eye could rest on the refreshing 
green of bushes and meadows. It was still quiet. 
Only now and then a young boy would pass by on 
his bicycle, carrying bread to his master’s customers. 
Or from the distance would come the echo of a 
trotting horse and slowly rolling wheels—the milk¬ 
man’s wagon. Very rarely did a promenader disturb 
us—^the park during those hours belonged to us and 
to the gaily chirping birds. 

The meetings of the Socialist movement, which I 
began to attend, at first neither attracted nor satisfied 
me. I hesitated to join ; I disliked the unaesthetic 
meeting-halls, the unattractive surroundings. Some 
of the lectures were uninteresting. It took some 
time for me to understand that I had to brush aside 
this hesitation and help to do things the way I thought 
they should be done. I finally joined and felt it was 
a decisive moment in my life. 

The following May Day I happened to be with 
my parents. I was confronted with a problem. 
How was I to go to the Socialist May Day gathering ? 

I did not know how, but I knew I would certainly 
go. It was impossible to tell my parents. At the 
very last moment somebodv told me that there was 



Toni Sender 

to be a park concert that morning. I told mother 
that I wanted to go, and away I went to the May 
Day demonstration. 

It was not very exciting—but I felt I had done 
my duty. When I returned home, an icy welcome 
descended on me. Mother and father had learned 
from some source that I had been at the Socialist 
rally. 

“ How could you have the absurd idea of visiting 
such an ill-famed place, to meet with such a mob ? ” 
my mother demanded in a sharp voice. “Did you 
not think of the effect your behaviour would have 
on father’s reputation and on his business ? ” 

I thought it better not to answer. It would have 
made things worse, and of course I realized that my 
act would scandalize all the respectable people in 
town. 

I could not go on like that, telling lies and being 
treated like an outcast. The longing for more free¬ 
dom was irresistible. France became the goal of my 
dreams. The great French Revolution must have left 
its traces—it must be the land of real freedom. I 
asked everybody I knew who had connections abroad 
to tell me of any opening in Paris that promised a 
job. 

Help finally came from a rather unexpected quar- 
ter. One of the young men in my boarding-house, 
who held a leadmg position in a metal company, 
told me that their Paris agency was looking for an 
experienced person, knowing French and English 
perfectly, who was also a capable stenographer in 
German, English, and French. 

I did not know English and French shorthand— 



Girlhood in the Germany of the Kaiser 

but what would I not have promised in order to get 
away ! I boldly apphed for the position with the 
intention of learning the things I did not yet know. 
I was willing to work day and night rather rljari 
stay any longer in Germany. My application was 
accepted, and a good salary was offered. Of course, 
my parents disapproved, but they realized that this 
time I could riot be kept down. Would I join the 
Socialist movement in France, my father asked at 
our parting. Of course I would, but without damag¬ 
ing his reputation, I promised. 

How happy I was—the door open at last to real 
hberty. Paris ! 



II 

PARIS: PRELUDE TO THE WORLD WAR 

My relief on leaving behind the country where I 
had suffered such restraints on my independence 
soon was forgotten in an experience which, in the 
beginning at least, was rather strenuous. 

Paris in those rainy October days of 1910 did not 
reveal all its splendour, still less its hidden charms. 
Grey clouds hung over the city for weeks. It was 
not an encouraging atmosphere for adjustment to 
a new city and a new way of living. The Paris 
agency of the metal concern fortunately was managed 
by a fine type of executive ; otherwise my early 
weeks in Paris woxild have been much more diffi¬ 
cult, if not impossible. Since I had studied French 
only at school and had heard my father speak it 
occasionally at home, I could both understand and 
speak the language. But the special terminology of 
a metal business, with all its peculiar formulas, was, 
to me, a book with seven seals. I understood little 
of all that the manager told me during the first 
days. Would I have to study metallurgy before I 
should be able to follow ? But even more urgent 
was the need for rapid acquisition of French and 
English shorthand, which I had professed to know. I 
bought the textbooks and studied diligently at night. 



Paris : Prelude to the World War 

No matter how foreign, a place may be, yon always 
encounter some kind person ready to be helpful. 
Of course, I found myself in a trying situation because 
of my own shortcomings, and I began to wonder 
what I would do if I lost my job, for I had been 
given it only on trial. At any rate, I decided, I 
would not go back to Germany, even if only the 
meanest kind of work were open to me. I told 
Lucien, a young French employee of the firm, of my 
difficulties. I needed somebody to give me dictation 
for practise in French and EngHsh shorthand. And 
I needed somebody who could explain the ABC 
of the ore trade. Lucien was not yet fully acquainted 
with it, but all he knew he put at my disposal, and 
in the next few months he contributed much towards 
making me feel at home. We always remained 
good comrades. In exchange for his kind services 
I shared with him some of the results of my research 
into the social and political institutions of his 
country. 

Was I looking for new difficulties ? I do not think so. 
I was just a very curious person. Now that I was hving 
in a new country, I had to acquire new knowledge. 
Inquiring about possibilities of evening studies, I 
learned that there was an Association Philo technique 
which gave evening classes in the neighbourhood of 
my office, at the Lycee Condorcet. I registered for 
two or three evening classes there and later on apphed 
for admittance to classes at the Sorbonne also. 

However, what I had told my father at our parting 
was not forgotten. I looked for contacts with the 
labour movement. The people I met at first knew 
little about it. But in the Humanitij the daily news- 



Toni Sender 

paper, then under the editorship of Jean Jaures, I 
discovered what I was looking for : ficole des fitudiants 
Socialistes—School for Socialist Students. I went to 
a lecture. There I was told that the school held 
seminars in the more advanced social studies. I was 
bold enough to apply for admittance to them in spite 
of the fact that I was not a regular student, had been 
in the country only a few weeks, was under twenty 
and knew the language only imperfectly. But a 
strong will could overcome all this, I thought. 

In those years before the war, a German Socialist 
was received everywhere abroad with the highest 
respect. It was as if the scholarship of the founders 
of scientific socialism were reflected on all of us. I 
nevertheless felt quite unworthy of the highly respectful 
reception the French students gave me. In the first 
seminar meeting I was charged to study Werner 
Sombart’s Capitalism^ first volume, and to report 
on it within a fortnight. I was frightened, but 
did not dare to show my fear, and I accepted the 
assignment. 

Now began the hunt for the book. Having to work 
all day, I could not read in the library, but only at 
night at home. Unacquainted with Paris, I lost a few 
days in the search for the book. When I finally got 
it, I stayed up the major part of my nights poring 
over Werner Sombarfs volume. What a task ! Not 
yet too familiar with economic terminology in my 
own language, I had to read in German and immedi¬ 
ately make my notes in French. It was almost beyond 
my capacity. But how could I disappoint my new 
fiiends ? Sacrificing most of my sleep for almost two 
weeks, I accomplished the task, but not too well. I 



Paris: Prelude to the World War 

promised myself to be more careful in the future. I 
was greatly relieved when all was over and I could 
again sleep through the night. 

There was not too long a period of quiet. I lived 
then in the rue Lafayette, a rather expensive street, 
at the boarding-house of an old English lady. She 
had some very peculiar customs. In her sitting-room, 
next to my room, she had three parrots chattering in 
competition with one another. She also felt herself 
to be the guardian of her lodgers’ virtue. I then took 
lessons in literary French from a cousin of mine, a 
philologist. While at first I went to his apartment for 
that purpose, he suggested later that he come to my 
room for them. Naturally I accepted. Was I not in 
the free city of Paris ? But he came only once. After 
he had gone, the landlady marched into my room. 
She would not tolerate visits of men ! And she would 
accept no explanation. 

There was only one answer—^to move out immedi¬ 
ately. Meantime I had learned to know Paris better 
and to love it. The real Paris was not in the neigh¬ 
bourhood of the Grand Boulevards, anyway. The 
Paris I cherished was the Paris of the Montmartre 
quarter, of the Tuileries, the Louvre, Notre Dame, 
the Seine with its old bridges and the bouquinistes, the 
book pedlars, selling their old books and etchings from 
their stalls. Most of all I loved the left bank, the 
Quartier Latin where the gay life of students and 
artists coincided with serious study and an atmo¬ 
sphere stripped of social prejudice. Even to-day I 
cannot think of the Luxembourg garden without a 
deep longing for its old, shadowy trees, the fountain 
of the Medicis, the picturesque company of the artists. 



Tom Sender 

students, and citizens one met there, the bright colours 
of olden times captured here as if by miracle. 

I made friends with students, French and Russian, 
and three of us, Lyuba, Evgueni, and I, took an apart¬ 
ment near the Luxembourg garden. Now at last I 
felt free. For the first time in my life I felt at home ! 

Our household did not last very long. I later moved 
to the rue Severe, a short, quiet street in the four¬ 
teenth district on the left bank, where I remained for 
the rest of my stay in Paris. Here I made my dearest 
friendships, met the most devoted comrades, and 
knew those great men who most influenced my life 
and my activities. It was the most active and the most 
wonderful time of my life. We were young, full of 
idealism and love of study. We were ready for any 
sacrifice. All of us had to work hard for a living— 
but there was always time for the cause. 

Of course I had joined the Socialist party. I applied 
and was admitted like an old friend. Different 
factions immediately courted me. “ Are you a 
Guesdist ? ” came from one. “ WiU you not join 
the Jauresists ? ” asked the other. And finally the 
ancims Herveistes tried their best. Was it not enough 
to belong to a party ? I have always felt that was 
sufficient restriction on one’s free will. You always 
give up some of your independence in joining an 
organization. I was, therefore, determined never to 
belong to a faction. It certainly is more convenient 
not to be bound by any party allegiance. If, however, 
you are not only a strong individualist but also a 
human being feeling keenly the desire to be a member 
of a community, realizing that the well-being of the 
individual and that of the community are inter- 

28 



Paris : Prelude to the World War 

dependent, then you wotild feel selfish if you rejected 
your obligation towards society. Many an individu- 
ahst also wants a better world. He cannot create 
it by himself—and he cannot for any length of 
time live a really full life at the expense of others. 
It certainly is one of the greatest arts in life to 
find the synthesis of a strong individualism and an 
active participation in the struggle to create a better 
world. 

This synthesis can more easily be found in France, 
with her long tradition of freedom and tolerance, 
than in any other country of the Continent. There I 
had an effective schoohng in genuine democratic pro¬ 
cedure within an organization. In the French Social¬ 
ist party’s tradition there is a great respect for the 
conviction of every individual member. Proportional 
representation is the rule from the bottom to the top, 
in the local groups, the district, the national conven¬ 
tion, and the executive. Nowhere is there absolute 
majority rule. Always and everywhere the minority 
is given a fair opporturuty to express itself, to fight 
in order to become a majority. And though the 
discussions, in accord with French temperament, are 
always highly passionate, one remains Mend and 
comrade to an opponent. Difference of opinion need 
not engender hatred, although, when you listened to 
the heated debates every Friday night at our meet¬ 
ings of the famous fourteenth section of the Socialist 
party of Paris, you received the impression that it 
was a bitter, implacable fight. 

I had scarcely become a member of the fourteenth 
section when they elected me vice-chairman. I felt 
greatly honoured but, stUl more, surprised. How 



• Toni Sender 

coidd I have deserved it, a German, a very young 
girl in an organization rich in cultured and deserving 
persons ? The fourteenth section in pre-war days 
was famous for its high intellectual standing and its 
militant spirit. I accepted gratefully, and I may say 
I did my best to deserve the confidence that the 
comrades had placed in me. 

This task was made easier by the chairman, a colour¬ 
ful personality who bore the name D. Paoli, of the 
famous Corsican family of General Pasquale di Paoh. 
With a tall though dehcate figure, thick black hair, 
a noble face with deep, dark burning eyes which be¬ 
trayed a great passion, he was a strongly self-willed 
yet kind personality. Destined by his family for the 
career of an army ofiicer, natural for a Paoli, he was 
sent to a military college. He revolted against the 
discipline and escaped to become one of the best 
educated and most devoted fighters for socialism. 
Strangely enough, we became the very best firiends, 
working together for the movement and sharing also 
in literary and other interests. There was only one 
passion which the young girl coiild not quite under¬ 
stand. Paoli never lost a deep interest in the study 
of military strategy. What could make an enthusiastic 
Socialist take such an interest in strategy? Was it 
the restless blood of his great ancestor, the famous 
general, who in a heroic war had liberated Corsica 
from domination by Genoa and had given to that 
short-lived island-republic a constitution which set 
down the rights of man years ahead of The Declaration 
of Independence and the French Revolution ? Reborn 
in this young twentieth-century Socialist was his 
ancestor’s qualities of a fighter—a fighter for his 



Paris : Prelude to the World War 

country’s freedom and for the freedom of the people 
within his country. 

It was still more surprising that Paoli, the Corsican, 
attempted, with me, to introduce some German 
organizational methods into the French movement. 
The Latin temperament of the French makes them 
less steady. Therefore, their organizations are often 
like a sieve—a permanent coming and leaving. To¬ 
day they enter a party—to-morrow they drop member¬ 
ship, though not allegiance. We tried to make the 
ties to the movement more solid by means of educa¬ 
tion and by the formation of small units with very 
close contact between the subleader and the members. 
As far as I could judge, on the basis of a short-term 
experience, the system seemed to work. 

Of course our collaboration was not always smooth 
and easy-going. Paoli would be carried away by his 
rash temper, and I certainly was sometimes too sensi¬ 
tive. Then Grazziani, another Corsican, though nor¬ 
mally much more hot-headed and unbridled than I, 
would do his best to make us forget the incident. He 
really was a good Samaritan, this unceremonious 
fellow, now a member of the French Chamber of 
Deputies, who did not like study too much but who 
had a lot of common sense and was an impressive 
speaker. 

We scarcely lacked speakers in our section. Almost 
every member was an orator ! Many of the French 
are born speechmakers. Every Friday night we had our 
lecture meeting in a hall at the back of a public-house. 
It was not very elegant or pleasant, but all that was 
forgotten once the meeting started. Passionate debate 
always followed the lecture, a real intellectual fight. 



Toni Sender 

in which we all took part. It was a good school in 
logic and clear expression. When at midnight or at 
one o’clock the innkeeper came to tell us that it was 
time to leave, we had never j&nished. But it was not 
the end. We went to the nearest cafe, and there the 
discussion was continued. 

We all grouped around Pere Bracke, 'our member 
of the Chamber, deeply beloved by all of us. Alex¬ 
andre Bracke—Bracke ” was merely a so-called 
political name—was also well known under his real 
name, Desrousseaux ; he was professor of Greek at 
the Sorbonne and one of the greatest scholars in the 
social sciences. Heavy-set, of the Flemish build fre¬ 
quently met in northern France, he personifies the 
very finest type of leader and friend. He always 
helped me in my studies and to this day remains one 
of my dearest friends. He is not the typical French 
orator; nevertheless, he was listened to most closely 
because we all knew that he had something substantial 
and valid to tell us. Though he was among the most 
highly respected, one never discovered in him a single 
trait of haughtiness. He was the genuine friend of the 
working man ; and not in a distant way, for he would 
sit down with a worker and over a cup of coflFee dis¬ 
cuss his political problems. Bracke knows the souTof 
his people and these people love him. He does not 
speak foreign languages, but he knows many of them 
very well and has translated into French many im¬ 
portant foreign works, especially of the German 
sciences. One may imagine how greatly the young 
girl appreciated the discussions with this man into the 
late hours of the night. It was always with deep regret 
that we finally parted. 



Paris : Prelude to the World War 

My section made me a permanent delegate to the 
Federal Council of the Socialist Federation of the 
Seine. It generally met on Monday nights to discuss 
political or tactical questions. The delegates of our 
fourteenth section were looked on as the most spec¬ 
tacular—sometimes also, I admit, as the most unruly. 
We certainly never avoided taking a definite stand, 
and we fought hard for our views. Not rarely, how¬ 
ever, we were defeated. One of the most interesting 
sessions of the Federal Council took place when Captain 
Gerard, a high General Staff officer and closest friend 
of Jean Jaures, lectured on Jaures’ new book. The 
New Army^ dealing with the timely topic of the defence 
of the republic and the democracy. There certainly 
never was a more glowing friend and fighter for 
peace than Jean Jaures. But he was not of the 
purely emotional, defeatist sort. He understood that 
a democracy had to be militant and he showed us 
how intimately connected was a true democracy with 
the character of the army. Captain Gerard, of tali 
stature and a fine spiritual face, gave us two of the 
most interesting and scholarly lectures we ever heard. 

How could I find the time to engage in so many 
activities in those happy though restless years ? I did 
not deceive myself about my need for further study. 
My special interests were law and economics. But the 
daytime was taken by office work, so I went to the 
director of the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve, the 
famous old library near the Pantheon, to obtain a 
special permit to work there at night. Many evenings 
I spent there alone or with a student friend. 

Some of the earlier morning hours, following my 
Frankfurt custom, were spent with a young French 



Toni Sender 

student reading Karl Marx’s Capital^ this time im 
French. 

Though it was my conviction that you learn to 
know another people really well only when you share 
their daily life, their joys and their sorrows, but 
never when you spend your leisure time with your 
compatriots, I did not neglect the Germans in Paris. 
Sascha and Wally Grumbach would not have per¬ 
mitted me to do so. Sascha was a young Alsatian, a 
capable journalist, correspondent for more than a 
dozen German labour papers. He is now a member 
of the French Chamber and active in foreign affairs in 
Paris and Geneva. When we met in Paris, however, 
he was connected with the German movement. Wally, 
his wife, a beautiful brunette, an able music student 
with an agreeable alto voice, daughter of a wealthy 
family, had abandoned home and career and had 
secretly run away from Frankfurt to join Sascha in 
Paris and to marry him. With the Grumbachs I 
went almost every Saturday night to the German 
Socialist Reading Club, which had rented quarters 
in a co-operative building in the rue de Bretagne in 
order to offer a library and reading-room to Germans 
in Paris. 

The Saturday meetings were always well attended 
—^in those days, politically somewhat quieter than 
the present, there seems to have been a greater thirst 
for knowledge. The book-store, improvised every 
Saturday night in the meeting-hall, sold on each of 
those evenings from 200 to 300 francs worth of books, 
more of them scientific than fiction. Usually on these 
Saturday nights some of the French trade unions would 
send spokesmen to collect funds for their members 



Paris : Prelude to the World War 

on strike. They knew it would be worth while. Al¬ 
though most of the club members were workers, they 
always gave their share. It was in the club that I met 
Otto Pohl, an Austrian, correspondent of the Wiener 
Arbeiterzdtung and the Berlin Vorwarts. Otto Pohl 
was a highly cultured and intelligent person and a 
genuine Bohemian Though I never saw him 
again, I have not forgotten his spirited chatter in 

his’’-cafe on the Boulevard Saint-Michel. Shortly 
after the World War he became Austrian ambassador 
to Moscow. But it is difficult for me to imagine that 
he could have felt at home anywhere but in the Latin 
Quarter of Paris. 

Sunday afternoons belonged to Wally and me. We 
had managed to take apartments in the same build¬ 
ing and we helped each other as much as possible. 
She was an art critic for some German papers and 
received press, theatre, and concert tickets, which we 
used together. Our curiosity also led us to visit the 
art salons. This introduction to French painting, 
especially to the Impressionists and to the first begin¬ 
nings of futurist and cubist art, awakened in me a 
preference for the Impressionist school that became 
important in some of my later work. On Sunday 
afternoons, however, Wally and I studied history and 
socialism. On the top floor of the modest building on 
the quiet rue Severo, we spent some of our happiest 
days—^learning, discussing, enjoying liberty in our 
plain though cosy rooms. 

It was through the Grumbachs and the German 
Club that I met many visitors from abroad. One of 
them was Engelbert Pernerstorfer, the great Austrian 
Socialist leader, even then an old man, but still pos- 



‘Toni Sender 

sessed of all his chivalry and charm. One day Karl 
Liebknecht arrived with his wife, Sonya, to spend a 
vacation in Paris. Karl, later one of the most spec¬ 
tacular and courageous fighters against the war, was 
at this time a rather reserved although interesting 
companion. Naturally we did not miss the opportu¬ 
nity of having him give a lecture in the German 
Club. He brought us valuable information, and our 
French friends thought that the message should be 
given also to the French people. Jean Longuet, a 
grandson of Karl Marx, had made an appointment 
with Liebknecht for an interview for Humanite. 
When Longuet came to the club, Karl at first would 
not talk to him. He did not want to give interviews. 
We others felt terribly embarrassed over the situa¬ 
tion. Not only was it an affront to the French party, 
but Longuet was one of the most internationally 
minded, kind, and sincere of comrades. Some of 
us, therefore, intervened and after strenuous efforts 
succeeded in making Karl change his mind. We com¬ 
pensated him and Sonya by showing them around 
Paris by day and night. We aU had a jolly time. It 
must have remained a bright spot in his memory, 
especially in his subsequent terrible years, first in the 
trenches—where he went although he was a member 
of the Reichstag !—and later in his fight against the 
army and civil authorities because of their war policy, 
a highly courageous struggle that ended in his and 
Rosa Luxemburg’s assassination in January, 1919, by 
gangster militarists. 

As speakers, however, none of the Germans—I 
had heard August Bebel and Ludwig Frank, both 
great orators—impressed me so much as the French. 



Paris : Prelude to the World War 

I never missed a lecture by Francis de Pressense if I 
could help it. Pressense, scion of an aristocratic 
family, former under-secretary to the Minister for 
Public Education, former diplomat, and one of the 
editors of the conservative Temps, had thrown himself 
body and soul into the Dreyfus affair. His profound 
sense of justice was aroused, and this historical struggle 
led him to look more closely behind the scenes of a 
corrupt ruling clique and into the background of the 
social struggle. It was Vaffaire that made this aristocrat 
a convinced Socialist who put his great and noble 
talent and his wide knowledge at the service of the 
workers. He lectured almost exclusively on foreign 
affairs. This was also his main interest in the Chamber 
of Deputies. He had no attributes of an orator, 
neither the dramatic language nor the gestures. 
Francis de Pressense was partly paralysed and therefore 
spoke almost without gestures. But you always felt 
on hearing him that you had learned an astonishing 
amount. There was another feeling aroused by 
Pressense’s quiet presentation—a feeling of which I 
most strongly became aware during his exposure of 
Italy’s war in Tripoli, her first successful ” North 
African adventure. He awakened in you the idea 
that even in politics and especially in foreign affairs 
there must be morals ; that the right to justice must 
be granted to all peoples, civilized ” or primitive ”. 
The French workers must have felt this too, for they 
always crowded the lectures of this friend who was so 
different from ordinary Latin speakers, who was both 
a teacher and a preacher. 

What a contrast to this man was Gustave Herve, 
the former anarchist who had spent years in lail for 



Toni Sender 

Ms violent anti-militarist propaganda ! While in jail, 
he had begun to read and to change his mind. In¬ 
cidentally, he has continued to change his mind, and 
now he is one of the staunchest nationalists in France. 
Herve was always sincere. Charles Rappoport, later 
to become a French Communist leader, used to say 
of Herve : Herve is always sincere. He says what 
he tMnks. Unfortunately he does not think ! ” 
When I first met Herve, he had just been released 
from jail and was to address a meeting to explain to 
the public, including his former anarchist friends, 
now bitter foes, why he had abandoned anarchism 
and become a Socialist. I, too, was curious and went 
to the Salle Wagram. There was great congestion at 
the entrance ; one sensed excitement. I was shoved 
into the hall, pushed to the front row. Rapidly the 
galleries also filled. There was electricity in the air. 
We waited for Herve. The crowd became impatient. 
The longer we waited the more oppressive became 
the heat, the greater the nervousness. The tension 
grew tauter and tauter. Finally Herve came on the 
platform—square-built, clad in a severe, monk-like 
habit. He started to speak. But from his first words 
I felt that sometMng must soon happen. And it came 
quickly. Loud and violent interruptions, insults, re¬ 
proaches. Then came the first shot. Many more 
followed. It became a terrible nightmare. Wounded 
were carried away. Chairs were thrown from the gal¬ 
lery. The tables crashed. The lighting fixtures began 
to fall in fragments—there was terrific confusion and 
panic. Some tried to run away. It was impossible. 
I and those about me had to sit and wait in the hope 
that we would not be wounded. Police finally arrived. 

Q 


Paris : Prelude to the World War 

Some of the anarchists with guns were arrested. These 
men could never forgive Herve for abandoning his 
former creed. 

A new movement, to some extent started by Wally 
and me, was the women’s labour organization. There 
were women in the Socialist party, some of them very 
clever and efScient. But they were a very small num¬ 
ber. The great majority of French women kept aloof 
from the political scene. It has always been my con¬ 
viction that you can never accomplish fundamental 
social changes in a free society without the collabora¬ 
tion of women, certainly not without their sympathy. 
In all Catholic countries, and also in France, women 
kept away from the political scene. Something had 
to be done about it, we felt. 

WaUy and I met with Elizabeth Renaud, tried 
feminist, Marianne Rauze, AHce Jouenne, a teacher, 
Suzanne Gibault, and others and founded a Socialist 
women’s group. I took it upon myself to visit aU 
sections and groups of the labour movement to stir 
up their interest. For weeks my evenings, except those 
reserved for classes, were entirely given to this job. 
As a by-product, I got to know all Paris, not always 
from its most pleasant side. Some workers’ groups 
met in real dens. The results of the first attempts 
were quite encouraging. At that time, in spite of their 
theory, there were not many feminists among the 
male Socialists. However, they received with good 
will the rather girlish-looking woman I still was, and 
seemed to give a cordial response to the appeals I made 
to them in short speeches. On I went, evening after 
evening. The ice seemed to be broken. Alas—the 
war later destroyed this promising seed. 


Toni Sender 

Great compensation for this hard work were those 
rare Saturday luncheons of a small group of friends 
with Jules Guesde. He was one of the old guard of 
international socialism. He had met Marx and Engels 
in London and had worked with them on the party 
programme. He was a genuine example of the prophet 
who devotes his life to a great cause. His serious, 
beautiful head, with its penetrating blue eyes, aquiline 
nose, and long grey beard, was immediate revelation 
of an extraordinary personality. This great scholar, 
whose unusual intelligence would have opened for him 
a brilliant career, lived all his life in poverty, often 
in misery, because he gave himself entirely to the 
service of the great cause he had chosen, wandering 
about the entire country from city to city, teaching, 
educating, stirring the masses to thought and activity. 
A special gift of his was to pick the right men to carry 
on the work started by him. He kept close contact 
with these men, advising them and thus carrying on 
a most systematic political education, an education 
that bears its fruits to the present day. Apart from 
this work, Guesde wrote excellent pamphlets, published 
a magazine, sat in the Chamber, and participated in 
the work of the Socialist International. His speeches 
were sarcastic, pungent, unshakably logical. But he 
was inexorable if you violated the Marxian theory, of 
which he felt himself to be the guardian. 

During our luncheons, Guesde showed us his most 
lovable side. Of course his disciple. Professor Bracke, 
was present to smooth the waves if necessary. Among 
the discussions we had I remember one dealing with 
nationalization of industry. Guesde severely con¬ 
demned its identification in the present society with 


Paris: Prelude to the World War 

socialization. Genuine socialization, in Jnles Guesde’s 
view, could exist only when a real people’s nation 
was established by the abolition of classes, when the 
government of men was replaced by the administra¬ 
tion of things. I could not agree with everything he 
said, but I was wise enough not to start a discussion 
every time that happened. In some respects, Guesde 
seemed to be too absolute, too much inclined to “ all 
or nothing ”, though he certainly favoured reforms 
that would make life easier for the poor and increase 
their liberty of action. 

The spring of 1914 brought a very exciting time. 
It was the period of general elections, which meant 
a heavy task for Paoli and for me. We had to organize 
the campaign in two constituencies, one of them, 
near the fortifications, with no chance for our candi¬ 
date to be elected, and the other one that of our friend 
Bracke, which could be held only by a vigorous fight. 
The struggle promised to become a heated one. The 
Socialist party had decided to oppose with energy 
the government’s bill for a three-year compulsory 
military service : to make opposition to this the 
central point of the campaign. 

It always was and still is one of the characteristics 
of the French Socialist movement that all activity in 
the constituencies is exclusively honorary and is 
carried on without any salaried help, even during the 
actual campaign. 

Father ” Bracke sent word one day that he wanted 
to see me as quickly as possible. 

You must take an active part in this campaign,” 
he declared. We shall begin with a women’s meet¬ 
ing at which you are to be the main speaker.” 



Toni Sender 

Impossible, Father Bracked’ 

“ But have you not taken part in our discussions ? 
Why not address public meetings also ? he persisted. 

There are many reasons. You are not accus¬ 
tomed in this country to women leading a political 
campaign ; I am not only a woman, but a German. 
This three years’ conscription bill which we are 
opposing so bitterly is the French answer to the German 
armament bill. It is too delicate a task for a German 
woman to argue with a French audience.” 

'' Not at all,” was Bracke’s reply. You shall 
speak just because you are a woman and a German. 
We want to demonstrate that we mean business when 
we declare ourselves in favour of the principle of inter¬ 
nationalism and of woman suffrage.” 

It was a fact that women in France at that time did 
not have the right to vote—they do not have it even 
now. Not all legislators are such convinced feminists 
as Bracke. Of course he was acting faithfully ,in the 
tradition of the great master, Jules Guesde, in regard¬ 
ing the campaign as an excellent opportunity for 
political education. 

My heart beat swiftly when the day of the first meet¬ 
ing approached. When I came to the hall, it was 
already overcrowded. People were standing in the 
streets. The experiment, so far, seemed to be success¬ 
ful—it was something new and people were curious. 
We had a number of speakers, some of them novices 
like me. Enthusiasm was running high and we all 
were affected. The meeting was a great success and 
an encouragement for further ones. 

One cannot run a campaign exclusively with en¬ 
thusiasm. It cannot be waged entirely without money, 


Paris : Prelude to the World War 

but our treasury was completely empty when the 
fight started. There was one way out—to approach 
wealthy members, patrons. Paoli as well as I rejected 
that way because we did not want to place the organ¬ 
ization under any kind of obligation to such persons. 
What then ? The printer had to be paid, almost at 
once. Such expenses run very high in France, since 
the campaign is fought in large part with elaborate 
posters, space for which is provided by the city for all 
parties. Both of us finally agreed that we had to use 
our own small bank accounts for campaign purposes 
and that we would live during those weeks on as little 
as possible, in order to place the rest at the party’s 
disposal. 

Among our outside speakers we were fortunate 
enough to secure the greatest speaker I have ever 
heard, Jean Jaures. I immediately fell under the speU 
of his magnetic personality. This man with his broad, 
extensive learning, with an extraordinary wealth of 
imagination, whose every word always won the highest 
respect wherever he might appear—this genius was at 
the same time of a touching simplicity. I felt free 
to remind him of our first meeting, years before in 
Germany. He had come through Frankfiurt with 
Socialists from several countries on his retmrn from 
an international convention. He was scheduled to 
address a mass meeting in the open air. The Prussian 
police showed their most obstructive side and declared 
that only speeches in the German language might be 
made. But this time they were outwitted. Jaur^ 
declared himself ready to speak in German ! His 
German was not perfect and he was unprepared for 
this sudden adventure. But those among us who 


i om Mnder 


knew French grouped ourselves around the platform, 
and as Jaures found himself at a loss for a word in 
German, we quickly supplied him with it. The effect 
of Jaures’ speech was heightened—the audience ad¬ 
mired even more the great French orator who could 
address them in their own language. In addition they 
had the satisfaction of besting the Prussian police. 

I have never since listened to a speaker wWe per¬ 
sonality and speech produced such a powerful effect. 
Jaures was squarely built, his stature a reminder of 
his peasant origin. His gestures were sparse and 
almost heavy. But what a clear, brilliant mind, what 
rigorous logic ! A beauty of language, an abundance 
of images often taken from nature, a profound idealism 
flowed from his words. A master of the word, an 
artist of improvisation, Jaures nevertheless did not 
simply improvise. Although he used to speak without 
notes, every speech had been well thought through 
previously. It is not surprising, therefore, that this 
man, who made so many speeches, never had to 
retract a word ; nor did Jaures the journalist ever 
have to rectify a mistake. He was always conscious 
of the great responsibility of the written as well as of 
the spoken word. 

Of course, our fourteenth Paris section, with its 
ever-ready eagerness to fight, could not go through 
the entire campaign altogether peacefully. As I have 
said, the campaign was based on the Socialist opposi¬ 
tion to the three years’ conscription bill. In the 
second constituency where we had to organize the 
fight, and where our candidate had no chance of being 
elected, our section had decided to retire our candi¬ 
date before the second ballot (necessary when none 

44 



Paris: Prelude to the World War 

of the candidates received a majority in the first 
ballot) without declaring ourselves for either of the 
two remaining candidates. The candidate of the 
Radical party, whose meetings we had followed, had 
never committed himself clearly for or against the 
conscription bill. Why should we advise our voters 
to give a preference to this non-committal candidate, 
we argued. When Jaures learned of our decision, he 
opposed it strongly in the Humanite. “ We must give 
preference to the progressive as against the reactionary 
candidate,” he urged. We were shocked. Immedi¬ 
ately we sent Jaures an angry reply. It is possible 
that in our youthful ardour our language overstepped 
proper bounds. 

The last meeting planned for our other candidate. 
Professor Bracke, was to reach its height by a demon¬ 
stration, with Jaures again as the main speaker. The 
meeting started. One speaker after another took the 
floor. Jaur& was not there yet. I looked at Paoli— 
he was seeking my eyes. Would he come ? Had we 
gone too far in our reply to his editorial ? I did not 
feel at all comfortable. AU of a sudden there was a 
movement in the hall—the crowd was cheering Jaures ! 
He had come, and he had arranged to make oiu meet¬ 
ing his last of the evening—naturally he had to address 
many that night—^in order not to have to rush away. 
He wanted to stay with us after the meeting in order 
to show that he did not mind our opposition. A 
genuine democrat and a magnanimous man ! 

How far removed was Jaures from the faintest trace 
of haughtiness ! Every meeting with him was, there¬ 
fore, a real experience—^especially the one to which a 
circle of his friends invited me when Jaures came 


Toni Sender 

back from his trip to South America. On his way he 
had visited Portugal, the young republic, and had 
been received by its parliament with all possible 
honours. We were all listening breathlessly to his 
account of his experiences, when he suddenly interr 
rupted himself. He had seen a comrade take from his 
pocket a photograph of his litde daughter and show it 
to his friend. Jaures wanted to see the child’s picture. 
He had so much warm feeling for the plain, human 
side of life ! 

What happy hours when late in the night of that 
April Sunday the election returns became known. 
Aim in arm, Bracke with us, we went singing through 
the streets—our fight against the conscription bUl 
crowned by a marvellous success. One hundred and 
two Socialist deputies had been elected—Bracke 
among them. The people had approved our demands 
for peace. 

A very short time afterwards the shots of Serajevo 
alarmed the world. Greater mischief was anticipated. 
But we did not abandon hope for the maintenance of 
peace. Most opportune seemed to be the International 
Socialist Congress called for the late summer of 1914 
at Vienna. This congress was to deal with a motion 
presented by the French Socialist, Edouard Vaillant, 
and the old English leader, Keir Hardie—a motion 
that foresaw the necessity for the declaration of a 
general strike in case of war. The French party, faith¬ 
ful to its democratic tradition, gave its party member¬ 
ship an opportunity at a national convention to discuss 
the agenda of the Vienna congress. I was a delegate 
at this Paris convention, which later made me a 
delegate to the Vienna congress. I still see before my 


.Paris: Prelude to the World War 

eyes the figure of the aged, venerable fighter, Vaillant^ 
the former Blanquist and member of the Paris Com¬ 
mune. All gave him due respect, but we nevertheless 
could not shut our ears to the counter-arguments 
which Jules Guesde presented to the convention with 
deep passion and a penetrating logic. Guesde declared 
that calling a general strike in the event of war would 
be possible only in countries with a very advanced 
labour movement, with the result that backward 
countries, unhampered by an effective strike, would 
be given great advantages. This would be a result 
certainly not intended by the authors of the motion. 

But when the delegates to the Paris convention 
separated, there was already doubt whether any of us 
would have the opportunity to go to Vienna. On the 
international horizon dark clouds were gathering. 
Temporarily the attention of the French, especially 
that of the Parisians, was captured by another event : 
the trial of Madame Caillaux, wife of a French cabinet 
minister. Madame Caillaux had armed herself with 
a revolver, had gone to the editorial department of 
the reactionary Paris paper Figaro^ had obtained 
admission to the editor-in-chief, Calmette, and had 
shot him dead. What had provoked this extra¬ 
ordinary act? Calmette had been carrying on a 
malicious campaign of slander in his paper against 
Joseph Caillaux and had uttered calumnies against his 
married life. Most Parisians sided with Madame 
Caillaux, who had not told her husband of her inten¬ 
tion before committing the murder. All Paris talked 
of the trial as if the life and liberty of Madame Caillaux 
were much more important that the impending 
decision for war or peace. 



Toni Sender 

In our circle, of course, everyone was concentrating 
on the development of the international scene. Im¬ 
patiently we were awaiting the return of our delegates 
to the meeting of the executive of the Socialist Inter¬ 
national, called in great haste. Father ” Bracke had 
told me he would see Jaures immediately after his return. 

Would war really come? As I was wont to do 
during critical days, I spent much time in the streets, 
trying to catch the temper of the people. On the 
Grand Boulevards the Camelots du roi were raging. 
Noisy young royalists shouted the slogan “ A Berlin ! ’’ 
The nationalistic mob already seemed to be loose. 
But when I entered my friends’ circle the same evening, 
I met a different atmosphere. Here they had not 
yet abandoned hope for the preservation of peace. 
Were not the masses of the people demonstrating for 
peace in all parts of Germany ? And here in France 
Jaures was using all his influence to maintain peace, 
asking the government not only to moderate its own 
measures but to influence also its Russian ally towards 
a temperate course. As long as Jaures hoped—we 
were hopeful. 

So we sat together the evening of this last July day 
of 1914, My friends knew that my position was an 
especially difficult and painful one. As a German, I 
could not stay in France in case of war without being 
put in a concentration camp. Many kind offers were 
made to me—that I should stay in France in any 
event, that comrades would hide me from the author¬ 
ities, I must not leave them, they urged. Deeply 
touched by such sincere friendship, I nevertheless de¬ 
cided I could not place my friends in an embarrassing 
situation should the catastrophe really happen. 



Paris: Prelude to the World War 

But all hope was not yet abandoned. Jaures was 
still there. He did not despair. Bracke, in those days 
my most solicitous friend, advised me not to leave as 
long as there was still a spark of hope. On July 31 I 
was stiU in Paris. My employer advised me to depart 
immediately—a few horns before, telephone connec¬ 
tions with Germany had been cut. Germany had 
already declared a state of “ war readiness ”. The 
tension was becoming unbearable. When I finally 
returned to my friends, last hopes seemed to dwindle. 
But StiU we waited for news from Jaures. We 
waited. . . . 

Shrilly and horribly the silence was torn : “Jaures 
is assassinated ! ” Impossible that this could be true 
—^that they would so soon begin to kill their own 
people, to destroy the best of them aU ! It was so 
senseless, it could not be true. But then came the 
details of the abominable murder, removing every 
doubt. The old slander of the jingoes against the 
noblest friend of the people finally had armed the 
hand of one of them. The jingoes wanted war— 
therefore, the best friend of peace ,had first to be 
removed. Now even my dear friend Bracke urged 
me to make my decision. 

One possibility of staying in France was offered to 
me by a very dear friend who was nearest to my heart 
during those happy Paris years. He was sever^ years 
older than I, shared my interests, and had had a 
richer experience than I. A student of pharmacy, he 
was on the eve of completing his studies. Would I 
not marry him so that we would be able to stay 
together? I would not have to run away. I hesi¬ 
tated. Under the circumstances, I was afraid that 



Toni Sender 

marriage would make me too dependent upon my 
friend, economically and otherwise. I knew myself 
well enough to realize that it might be too severe a 
strain upon my strong sense of independence and 
might destroy the harmony we had enjoyed until then. 

I told my friend of the difficulties I envisaged. He 
argued very strongly against them but showed a 
touching understanding of my nature. Finally, in the 
interest of all, and against the will of my friends, I 
decided on departure. 

All that was dear to me had to be abandoned. 
However, at that hour it was not the idea of personal 
loss that kept my mind in turmoil, but the realization 
that these idealistic young friends were to be sent to 
the bloody batdefields, that they woirld suffer and 
many of them perhaps never retmm, that they would 
face the shells and bombs which my compatriots 
would rain down upon them. Gould there be a more 
cruel, a more useless fate ! 



Ill 


. FIGHTING FOR PEACE IN WARTIME 
GERMANY 

All connections with Germany are interrupted/’ 
I was told at the station. 

“ Already? ’’ I asked in surprise. 

The Germans did it.” 

Go to Belgium or to Switzerland/’ someone 
suggested. I decided on Switzerland, fortunately. 
Belgium had already been invaded by German troops, 
but we did not know that yet. 

This war cannot last very long/’ a French officer 
on the train, on his way to fortified Belfort, told me. 

It will be a war of technique and material, and we 
win crash them.” 

I had to change trains several times. Mobilization 
was already in full swing. It was heartrending to see 
families with many children, fleeing the country where 
they had lived happily. The husband would on the 
morrow be a German soldier, fighting against people 
who had been his friends. 

I went to Basel to be near the German frontier. 
All border traffic was interrupted. Naturally I had 
no passport. No woman had one before the war. I 
tried to cross the border by walking. Impossible. 


Toni Sender 

. Show me that you are a German/’ was the roughly 
spoken demand. 

have only my language to prove it.” 

The officer was not interested. 

We don’t need women. The men who have to go 
to the front come first on the trains ! ” 

The same experience was repeated at the German 
consulate. I went to see relatives, a Swiss family. 
The boy was preparing to join the army. I spent all 
day in that Swiss town. A second day passed similarly. 
Feeling in German Switzerland was running highly 
pro-German. I had to be careful to utter no critical 
word, and the tension proved too strong for me to be 
able to stay there. 

The fourth of August brought a terrible blow. 
The German Socialists had voted the war credits ! 
Everything seemed to coUapse. How could they ? ” 
I argued with myself. '' Couldn’t they see the 
Austrian responsibility, beginning with the provoca¬ 
tive ultimatum to Serbia ? Without approval of the 
German government Vienna would never have dared 
to go as far as it did.” 

More days of waiting followed. My parents, not 
knowing where I was, must be in great distress. 
I sent them telegrams and letters but doubted if 
these would reach them. (They did not. Weeks 
later they all arrived together, long after I had 
appeared.) 

Three weeks in Switzerland and I became uncon¬ 
trollably impatient, I looked up the consul and told 
him, I am ready to stay here as long as it pleases 
you, but you will have to pay my expenses. Soon I 
shall have no more money.” That seemed to impress 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germar^ 

Mm. After some more negotiations I received a paper 
authorizing me to walk over the border. 

In Leopoldshohe, the first German town, I climbed 
into a freight car crowded with German troops on 
their way to the front. Most of them were married 
men and not too enthusiastic about fighting. For 
hours the car did not move. It was a hot August day ; 
our car was in the sun, and the air became hotter and 
fouler. There was no water, except that wMch the 
soldiers had brought in their bottles. They shared it 
with me. 

What a trip ! There were only military trains, 
freight cars, and I never knew whether I had boarded 
the right train. I had to rely on my knowledge of 
the district, jumping off at the next stop when I saw 
the train head away from my route. For two days 
and nights I lived on the meals the soldiers gave me. 
There was no sleep, no fresh air. 

My parents were surprised and still more relieved 
when I suddenly stood before them. 

“ The war cannot last very long,” I thought of the 
words the French officer had spoken to me. “ I shall 
stay here with you until it is over, and then, if possible, 
go back to France.” 

Our doctor, learning of my arrival, came to ask 
me to help in the military hospital, where he was 
surgeon-major. I should receive quick training and 
should prove myself useful, he said. 

“Heal the wounds of the war? ” I said to myself. 
“ Perhaps that is what we should do,” I agreed. 
They took me to an operating-room. I had to 
assist there, and to record the details of wounds and 
treatment. 


Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germar^ 

him. After some more negotiations I received a paper 
authorizing me to walk over the border. 

In Leopoldshohe, the first German town, I climbed 
into a freight car crowded with German troops on 
their way to the front. Most of them were married 
men and not too enthusiastic about fighting. For 
hours the car did not move. It was a hot August day ; 
our car was in the sun, and the air became hotter and 
fouler. There was no water, except that which the 
soldiers had brought in their bottles. They shared it 
with me. 

What a trip ! There were only military trains, 
freight cars, and I never knew whether I had boarded 
the right train. I had to rely on my knowledge of 
the district, jumping off at the next stop when I saw 
the train head away from my route. For two days 
and nights I lived on the meals the soldiers gave me. 
There was no sleep, no fresh air. 

My parents were smprised and still more reheved 
when I suddenly stood before them. 

“ The war cannot last very long,” I thought of the 
words the French officer had spoken to me. “ I shall 
stay here with you until it is over, and then, if possible, 
go back to France.” 

Our doctor, learning of my arrival, came to ask 
me to help in the military hospital, where he was 
surgeon-major. I should receive quick training and 
should prove myself useful, he said. 

“ Hed the wounds of the war ? ” I said to myself. 
“ Perhaps that is what we should do,” I agreed. 
They took me to an operating-room. I had to 
assist there, and to record the details of wounds and 
treatment. 


Toni Sender 

Wounded soldiers arrived daily. Most of them were 
youngsters. They told of their war experience with¬ 
out realizing the cruelty of their language. In the first 
weeks a young man, apparently not badly wounded, 
was brought into the operating-room, his mouth 
gaping open. 

He cannot close it,” said the orderly. 

The young soldier’s eyes looked terribly frightened. 
After he had left the room, one of the doctors said : 
'' Tetanus, and we have no anti-tetanus serum here 
yet. I shall wire for it. Let us hope it will not be 
too late.” He did everything he could. The young 
soldier was isolated and well taken care of—but the 
serum came too late. It was our first death. 

Most of the wounded, it was plain, were mighty 
glad to be out of the trenches and not eager for their 
wounds to heal too quickly. Heimatschuss —^homeland 
shot—they used to call a more serious wound that 
kept them for a long period in the hospital far behind 
the iSront. But most of them were sent back to the 
trenches, in spite of ail their efforts to stay away. 
And I had to help send them out again 1 Soon I saw 
through our illusion about healing wounds ”. No, 
our function actually was not to heal wounds, but to 
make men fit to be sent into battle again—-perhaps to 
death. I felt I could not go on with this work, help¬ 
ing to cure men only to have them sent out anew as 
cannon fodder. 

The central office of the metal concern for which 
I had worked in Paris had learned of my return to 
Germany and had asked me to come to Frankfurt. 
They needed my services. At their first request I was 
hesitant—^but after I had made up my mind about 


Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germm^ 

the experience in the military hospital, I answered 
the summons. 

The heads of the firm knew of my Socialist con¬ 
victions. I thought it my duty to tell them also of 
my attitude toward the war. I therefore never felt 
uncomfortable in my relationships in business, for 
these were always based on frankness and honesty, 
and my employers reciprocated in kind. 

Do , you think you have any talent for organiz¬ 
ing? ’’ N.S., one of my employers, asked me one day. 

We should like to have you organize a new depart¬ 
ment of special importance just now.^’ 

I replied that I thought I could handle the assign¬ 
ment. I outlined my ideas on procedure, and they 
were approved. It was a delicate task. From 1914 
to 1918 almost all economic life, particularly that of 
a metal concern, was concentrated on war purposes. 
The new department I was entrusted with dealt with 
the most confidential records of manufacturing and 
financial transactions. Its scope included relations 
with the war ministry and the building of new plants 
for war purposes. The department also supervised the 
operation of plants already owned by the company. 
Besides my departmental work, I had to attend to 
much of the foreign-language correspondence. One 
of my employers discovered that I had a gift for under¬ 
standing legal matters, a discovery that led to addi¬ 
tion^ duties for me. 

Nobody working for a living during the World 
War could escape some work connected with produc¬ 
tion of war materials. My position, however, was 
somewhat more difficult than that of a factory worker, 
because it gave me knowledge of many secrets that 



Toni Sender 

would have interested the anti-war movement. What 
was to be my attitude ? Was it to be a double 
allegiance, one to the anti-war movement and another 
to the firm ? Should I “ bore from within ’’ for the 
sake of my cause ? No/’ I reasoned. I must 
answer confidence with confidence. If they trust me 
in the firm, I must show them that I deserve it, I 
cannot serve my cause by deceit. Objectionable 
means cannot further a great idea.” Once this view¬ 
point was clear, I resisted every temptation to use for 
the sake of my anti-war activities any knowledge 
obtained in the execution of my business duty. 

Although my first reaction to the voting of the war 
credits by the German Socialists was a determination 
to give up my membership in the party, I dropped this 
idea of isolation when I returned to Frankfurt. Some¬ 
one in Biebiich had already told me of an opposition 
within the Social Democratic party and had given me 
the name of one of its leaders, Robert Dissmann, of 
the Socialist provincial organization. 

Robert was one of the most interesting figures in 
the German labour movement and a person whom I 
came to respect as a leader and to hold in affection 
as a man. Of a lower middle-class family in the Lower 
Rhine district, he had had only the education of a 
three-class village school. In his teens, however, he 
had become an official of the Metal Workers Union 
in Ms home district, and a successful and popular 
one. He was the most indefatigable worker I have 
ever known. When you saw a man with a long, down¬ 
ward hanging, blond moustache, Ms extra-large brief¬ 
case stuffed with documents and books, rusMng 
through the streets with his clothes hanging loosely 


Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

about hiruj it was Robert on the job. With a gay, 
cheerful temperament and an excellent sense of 
humour, nature surely had destined him for an easier, 
more joyous life than circumstances now permitted 
him to lead. He had devoted his entire life to the idea 
of the liberation of labour and was ready to sacrifice 
all personal advantages for this goal. There was no 
man more devoted to the cause. But the same sacri¬ 
fices he asked from himself, he insisted every other 
member of the party should be willing to make. You 
had to give your night’s sleep, risk your job, your 
liberty, your life, just as he did, wthout expecting 
any special praise. It was your duty—that was all. 
Since he set himself such a code of pure devotion, 
none of his closer friends dared to refuse his demands 
for service. His demands were pitiless and so inexo¬ 
rable that they sometimes ruined our health—but no 
one could reproach him. He certainly was one of the 
best organizers the German labour movement has 
known. What a pity that he is missing now when the 
most difficult organizing job of all times is before us 
—that of organizing the underground movement in 
Germany. Of what inestimable service his rich 
imagination and special talent, combined with his 
unselfishness, could be now ! 

When I met Robert Dissmann in his office, he had 
just come from a meeting with Rosa Luxemburg, 
shortly before she was jailed. He was in a cheerful 
mood, encouraged by good news that Rosa had 
brought. I told him that I was looking for Socialists 
who had not yet forgotten the spirit of the great 
anti-war demonstrations in the last days of July. 

You have come to the right place. We are gather- 



Toni Sender 

ing together all those who think as yon do. Do you 
know that not all Socialist members of the Reichstag 
were in favour of voting the war credits ? Fourteen 
were opposed to them, and among these fourteen was 
Hugo Haase, the president of the group and of the 
party. He was forced, in the Reichstag, to read the 
declaration justifying the majority’s attitude, but he 
had previously fought the majority with all his vigour. 
Opposition to the majority’s attitude is flaring up all 
over the country. We must stick together and spread 
our ideas in spite of the state of siege. Are you ready 
to be at our disposal as one of our speakers ? ” 

He expressed so much optimism that I could not 
resist. In the first party meeting that followed, the 
member of the Reichstag for Frankfurt, Dr. M. 
Quarck, defended the majority’s vote for the war 
credits, emphasizing especially the czarist danger. 
I was the first speaker in the discussion period. I 
stressed the imperialist ambitions of the Pan-Germans 
and of the Kaiser, arguing the absurdity of the spectacle 
of the Kaiser, at the head of the war and government 
forces, fighting against the imperialism of other nations. 
Although the majority was in Dr. Quarck’s favour, 
the unknown young woman was well received by 
the audience—a reaction which made the doctor so 
nervous that he permitted himself some disparaging 
personal remarks. 

“ Who is this young person who comes to give us 
lessons on imperialism ? I have never seen her work¬ 
ing here in our movement,” he said. 

The audience protested. One man stood up to 
declare : ‘‘ I know Toni Sender. I don’t agree with 
her, but still must give testimony for her, for I saw her 


Fighting for Peace in\ Wartime Germany 

work very hard for the movement in Paris/' It was 
a member of the German Club in Paris who also had 
escaped in time. This remark settled things in my 
favour. They could no longer suspect me. 

But the result was that party meetings became 
rarer. ' Practices within the party convinced me that 
even in the German labour movement the genuine 
spirit of democracy was still unknown—^it was under¬ 
stood only as the right of the majority to carry through 
its decision. Minority rights were disregarded. Was 
it not a legitimate demand to have a speaker of the 
minority or the Reichstag group defend opposition to 
the war credits ? It was never granted. Every party 
meeting became a more disagreeable experience. As 
our influence seemed to increase^ opportunities for 
discussion were more and more curtailed. Finally it 
became altogether impossible to explain to the members 
the viewpoint of the opponents of the war. But we 
would not let the opposition be entirely suppressed. 
Robert found a way out. 

“ Toni, you must help us," he said one day. We 
shall organize a local branch of the National Federation 
of Proletarian Freethinkers. This organization has no 
branch here. Its national leadership is opposed to war 
and would not mind our using the organization's 
protecting roof for our anti-war activity. I have a 
long list of names of possible members. WiU you look 
them up in the evenings and try to bring them in ? 
But you must be very careful not to let them know 
our real purpose before you find out how they stand 
on the war. I must leave it to your discretion to bring 
in the right kind of people." 

What could I do but accept the task ? It was a good 



Toni Sender 

exercise in political strategy. Some of my listeners 
took the objects of the freethinkers quite seriously 
and started to discuss with me related philosophical 
problems. Others understood rapidly, could read 
between the lines. Many promised to come to our first 
meeting, and they did come. The jobs assigned to me 
for this assembly were a speech on the separation of 
state and church in France and an explanation of the 
aims and statutes of the Proletarian Freethinkers. Of 
the latter I did not know much more than most in the 
audience. The necessary documents had not arrived 
on time. Even to the present day I do not under¬ 
stand why the workers must have a freethinkers^ 
organization of their own. Nevertheless, I must have 
answered the many pointed questions satisfactorily, 
for after ample discussion the decision to found the 
group won almost unanimous approval. 

From this start until the founding of the Independent 
Socialist party at Easter, 1917, the freethinkers’ group 
was the rallying-place of the opponents of war. It 
was not always easy to meet. Many persons active 
in our group were well-known political leaders, and 
very soon the police began to take an interest in us. 
Furious defenders of the war denounced our real 
purpose to the owners of assembly halls, and it became 
ever more difficult to obtain a meeting-place. Many 
times, when a meeting with a speaker from Berlin 
had been arranged, I would be told, when I came to 
the hall, that the place could not be put at our dis¬ 
posal. It was useless to argue with the inn-keeper. 
The only thing to do was to look for another place. 
Yet, despite every obstacle, we succeeded in holding 
all our scheduled meetings. 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany^ 

The military authorities also began to become 
curious about our activity. As our ranks increased, 
denunciations to the authorities began. One after 
another the men, until then assigned to important war 
work at home, were suddenly called to the trenches. 
They knew they risked their lives in joining us. No¬ 
body who came to the Proletarian Freethinkers in the 
first war years and to the Independent Socialist party 
after 1917 expected any personal advantage from 
these affiliations—exactly the contrary : only danger, 
if not worse. Only reliable, unselfish, and idealistic 
men and women joined us. They created in these 
organizations a spirit of comradeship such as I have 
never met again. An intimate tie for life was created. 
I am convinced that none of these people who survived 
the war and are living now in the Hitler hell, has 
given up. They are characters of steel—the best of 
the Germans. 

From the beginning of my anti-war activity I tried 
to remain in contact with comrades abroad. Especially 
those in France proved to be genuine friends. We dis¬ 
cussed the burning issues in letters, some of them 
written in the French trenches and sent via neutral 
countries. Though we could not entirely agree in our 
conceptions, I rediscovered the old willingness to 
understand and to appreciate the other’s point of view. 

Anti-war actmty receives its final justification only 
when it is international. I learned of attempts to 
come to such an international understanding. Women 
were the first to undertake the daring enterprise. 
Under the influence of Rosa Luxemburg and with the 
assiduous help of Clara Zetkin, the great Socialist 
woman leader, with both of whom I kept in touch, the 



Toni Sender 

first International Anti-War conference was organized 
in Berne in the spring of 1915. Before going to the 
conference Robert Dissmann and I went to see Clara 
Zetkin at her home in Wilhelmshohe, on the hillg 
near Stuttgart. We were told to be careful because 
Clara’s house was being watched. We saw no one 
about. Clara, who was living with her second hus¬ 
band, the painter H. Zundel, in a pretty little house 
set in the middle of a garden, was at that time still 
editor of the Socialist women’s newspaper. Die 
Gleichheit (Equality), and in close contact with Rosa 
Luxemburg. She was one of the most active fighters 
against war and very bitter towards anyone who did 
not fully agree with her views. We discussed measures 
to be taken to organize the opposition in south¬ 
western Germany, the agenda of the Berne conference, 
and, finally, how to spread the decisions of this gather¬ 
ing, should it succeed. Clara again and again became 
excited when the talk turned to persons whom she 
considered traitors, and these included not only those 
who had voted the war credits but also the opponents 
of war who were not sufficiently irreconcilable. 
Robert, fortunately, in his gentle way succeeded in 
quieting her, and we came away well satisfied. 

But in Berne we met unexpected difficulties. We 
were certainly pleased to have not only German but 
also French and English women delegates meet for a 
common purpose while the cannon thundered on 
all .fronts. Women were the first to demonstrate that 
the spirit of intematiDnaKsm could not be killed 
entirely. The French delegate, Louise Saummoneau, 
was not sent by her party but joined us on her own 
responsibility. It was her courageous campaign 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germ 

against the war which later caused her country to jail 
her for a long period. 

I had a long discussion with the two official British 
delegates, Margaret Bondfield (in later years the Minister 
of Labour in the MacDonald cabinet) and Marion 
Philipps, the very intelligent leader of the women’s 
trade union movement in Great Britain. They insisted 
that Britain had gone to war in order tO' defend little 
Belgium, whose neutrahty had been violated by the 
Germans. , Although I had protested most vigorously 
against this violation, I doubted the generosity of a 
British government which had tolerated so many 
injustices in the world and which, itself, had com¬ 
mitted some of them. It seemed to me more probable 
that Britain had entered the war for the sake of her 
own interests. Since then, developments have, un¬ 
fortunately, proved me right. 

Nikolai Lenin, pulling wires behind the scenes, 
created some difficulties at Berne, The majority group 
in the conference demanded international action of 
the women in all countries to put an immediate end 
to the war and to reach a peace without annexations 
or conquest. This was the main issue on which we 
had gathered. But the Russian women, directed by 
Lenin from another room of the Berne Volkshaus, intro¬ 
duced a completely different resolution. It called 
for immediate splits in our respective parties—definite 
breaks with the majority Socialists, who supported 
the war. All of us were opposed to forcing splits. 
Clara Zetkin, then in precarious health, was terribly 
upset. Many of us feared for her life. And she, as well 
as other delegates who knew him, were far from pleased 
when Karl Radek, present as an aid to Lenin, would 



Toni Sender 

come and sit with us. We knew him too well as 
a despicable character to want him as a member. 
Lenin’s obstructionism was finally defeated. We did 
not wish to separate ourselves from the masses by 
order of Lenin, for it was among these masses that our 
agitation for peace must be conducted. It was not 
until 1920 that Lenin succeeded in his programme, this 
time with Clara at his side. 

But the first international meeting after the out¬ 
break of the war, arranged by women, ended in har¬ 
mony. It was to be the springboard of the struggle for 
peace. 

Heading homeward, I again came to Leopoldshohe, 
the first German town across the Swiss border. I 
opened my suitcase for the customs officer, took out 
my toilet bag, and gave it to him without any nervous¬ 
ness. 

“ These are my toilet articles and the rest are dresses 
and underwear. That is all I have.” 

Amiably the officer returned the bag. He glanced 
at my luggage. 

“ Everything is all right. Good-bye.” Of course 
the officer had no idea that he had held an ominous 
manuscript in his hands. 

The manifesto of the Berne conference was safe ! 
Now it could be printed and spread. Robert Diss- 
mann would do what was necessary. An old friend in 
Baden had his printing plant ready. My task was 
to organize the distribution. That would not be too 
difficult. Preparatory work had already been done. 
Before my trip to Switzerland I had started to organize 
the wor^g women opposed to war. Ehzabeth S., a 
proletarian, an upright and courageous person, was 



Fighting Jor Peace in Wartime Germany 

my best helper. We met every fortnight. I gave a 
short report of the news that the authorities did not see 
fit to print. Most of these women were the wives of 
soldiers. Their loved ones were in the trenches. At 
home they endured near famine. Some of them were 
working in munitions factories. They had become 
emancipated and independent. Within a short period 
life had taught them what nobody had explained to 
them before. They were brave and courageous. Soon 
after my return to Frankfurt we met. We were proud 
that women had organized the Berne conference. 
Elizabeth Tegan to complete the plan for distribution 
of the leaflet—^for which the mflitary authorities were 
already looking. 

“ Listen, this is how we shall handle it,” said Eliza¬ 
beth. “ Everyone among us has her assigned district. 
We shall wear long capes, as many of us as have them, 
to conceal the leaflets. If you haven’t one, Toni, I 
can lend you one.. The work is to be started each day 
after sunset. Inconspicuously, we must see to it that 
the leaflets find their way into the homes. Everyone 
must use her own brains. Our pride must be not in 
being arrested, but in doing the job successfully.” 

The plan was followed. On the appointed evening 
the distribution went forward over the entire city. 
None of us was caught or arrested that night. But the 
next day people began to talk about the sudden 
appearance of anti-war propaganda. The police were 
forced into activity. Two of our women were seized. 
I was not yet suspected. Nothing could be proved, 
and our two friends were released. The work was 
resumed. 

Scarcely had we forgotten the excitement over the 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

my best helper. We met every fortnight. I gave a 
short report of the news that the authorities did not see 
fit to print. Most of these women were the wives of 
soldiers. Their loved ones were in the trenches. At 
home they endured near famine. Some of them were 
working in munitions factories. They had become 
emancipated and independent. Within a short period 
life had taught them what nobody had explained to 
them before. They were brave and courageous. Soon 
after my return to Frankfurt we met. We were proud 
that women had organized the Berne conference. 
Elizabeth Tegan to complete the plan for distribution 
of the leaflet—^for which the military authorities were 
already looking. 

“ Listen, this is how we shall handle it,” said Eliza¬ 
beth. Everyone among us has her assigned district. 
We shall wear long capes, as many of us as have them, 
to conceal the leaflets. If you haven’t one, Toni, I 
can lend you one.^ The work is to be started each day 
after sunset. Inconspicuously, we must see to it that 
the leaflets find their way into the homes. Everyone 
must use her own brains. Our pride must be not in 
being arrested, but in doing the job successfully.” 

The plan was followed. On the appointed evening 
the distribution went forward over the entire city. 
None of us was caught or arrested that night. But the 
next day people began to talk about the sudden 
appearance of anti-war propaganda. The police were 
forced into activity. Two of our women were seized. 
I was not yet suspected. Nothing could be proved, 
and our two friends were released. The work was 
resumed. 

Scarcely had we forgotten the excitement over the 



Toni Sender 

leaflet, when I received word from the customs office. 
A package had arrived for me from Switzerland. I- 
was to come to the office to pay the necessary duty. 
What might it be ? I did not expect anything from 
abroad. Two large packages were brought before 
me in the customs office. I had a presentiment as to 
the contents—prohibited literature. The officer un¬ 
wrapped the parcels and out came dozens of books. 
My heart was beating wildly. Fortunately that could 
not be detected by the officer. I was relieved when I 
saw on the paper cover the title Das perjide Albion^ the 
slogan used against England by the German jingoes 
during the war. Rapidly the officer looked through 
the book. 

'' Seems to be good patriotic stuff,’’ he said. 

Certainly, officer,” was my answer. 

Had he been a little more careful, however, he 
would have discovered under the paper cover the real 
title, TAccme^ the famous book written by a German 
and accusing Germany, on the basis of authentic docu¬ 
ments, of her share of the war guilt. Had the officer 
discovered this title, my immediate arrest would have 
resulted. Sascha and Wally Grumbach had had these 
packages forwarded to me. I was to send the book to 
a number of highly interested and influential persons 
in Germany. This explanation came later in a letter, 
not directly addressed to me. This time again the 
experiment was successful, but the frivolous Grumbachs 
repeated it twice and finally brought me into serious 
danger, from which I escaped mainly on account of 
my young, innocent appearance. 

Gradually more and more of our male comrades 
became known to the military authorities, and one 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany . 

after another was sent into the army. It was a terrible 
blow when Robert Dissmann’s turn came. He was the 
soul of the movement, its active spirit in all south¬ 
western Germany. The most resourceful in new ideas 
and methods, he also had the contacts with the Berlin 
leaders. He was our most inspiring fighter. We were 
almost desperate. 

Don’t lose courage, children,” he said in his 
Rhenish dialect. I shall not go to the trenches. I 
am sick. I shall remain your adviser as much as 
possible. Don’t lose courage, I shall manage to come 
back. Meantime, Toni has to do my job. Try to 
keep in touch with me.” 

He kept his promise. Soon he was in a military 
hospital. I had to procure him medical advice. The 
army authorities did not trust him and sent him to a 
distant, isolated place which could be reached from 
the nearest railroad station only by a two-hour w'alk 
across- a mountain. I had given him a promise—to 
visit him, if possible, every week. And I did it in all 
kinds of weather. I would stay the night in a peasant’s 
house in the village. Early in the morning I started 
on my lonely hike, climbing the mountain through a 
dense forest. Arriving at length at the army hospital, 
I would look at Robert’s window for a signal that the 
coast was clear—a white towel hung out as a flag. If 
it 'was there, I could enter. If not, there was danger 
and I'had to wait, sometimes in the open, sometimes 
in the soldiers’ canteen. More than once I had to 
travel back late in the evening without having seen 
him, crossing the mountain in the dark night. The 
entire effort had been in vain. I could not enter the 
hospital. 



' , Fighting^ for Peace in Wartime Germany ' ' . 

after another was,sent into the army. It was a terrible 
blow when Robert Dissmann’s turn came. He was the 
soul of the movement, its active spirit in all south¬ 
western Germany. The most resourceful in new ideas 
and methods, he also had the contacts with the Berlin 
leaders. He was our most inspiring fighter. We were 
almost desperate. 

Don’t lose courage, children,” he said in his 
Rhenish dialect. I shall not go to the trenches. I 
am sick. I shall remain your adviser as much as 
possible. Don’t lose courage, I shall manage to come 
back. Meantime, Toni has to do my job. Try to 
keep in touch with me.” 

He kept his promise. Soon he was in a military 
hospital. I had to procure him medical ad\dce. The 
army authorities did not trust him and sent him to a 
distant, isolated place which could be reached from 
the nearest railroad station only by a two-hour walk 
across' a mountain. I had given Mm a promise—to 
visit Mm, if possible, every week. And I did it in all 
kinds of weather. I would stay the night in a peasant’s 
house, in the village. Early in the mormng I started 
on my lonely Mke, climbing the mountain through a 
dense forest. Arriving at length at the army hospital, 
I would look at Robert’s window for a signal that the 
coast was clear—a wMte towel hung out as a flag. If 
if was there, I could enter. If not, there was danger 
and I' had to wait, sometimes in the open, sometimes 
in . the soldiers’ canteen. More than once I had to 
travel back late in the evening without having seen 
Mm, crossing the mountain in the dark night. The 
entire effort had been in vain. I could not enter the 
hospital. 



1 oni Mnaer 


If access was possible, I gave a short, whispered 
report. Other soldiers were in the same room. In not 
much more than an hour, all affairs had to be dis¬ 
cussed, plans for the next period made. Robert never 
lost his good humour, his vivacity, and his confidence 
that he would get out of the army. But what trials he 
had to go through ! His last place of confinement was 
a mental asylum, where I could visit him only after 
obtaining a number of permits from military authorities 
and where he played his part so perfectly that I was 
deeply worried lest this time he was really affected. 

During the entire period of Robert’s absence the 
work of the organization for that part of Germany 
was in my hands. The better to co-ordinate our 
activity, we had carefully prepared a conference for 
the whole region—the Rhineland, the Lower Rhine, 
Baden, Wurttemberg. Everything seemed to be very 
well arranged. We thought ourselves unusually 
shrewd in selecting a meeting-place in the neighbour¬ 
hood of police headquarters in Frankfurt. Some 
prominent political representatives from Ber lin took 
part. It was a sunny Sunday morning. Our guests 
had all arrived. Everything seemed to go smoothly. 
There was no interference by the police, and that made 
us confident. One of our friends. Dr. Notter, had pre¬ 
pared a speech on swamp-draining. That was the 
declared purpose of our meeting, to discuss measures 
for increasing the agricultural production of blockaded 
Germany. 

I had just taken the addresses of all our guests and 
those of some valuable contacts they recommended, 
when suddenly the door opened and the chief of 
Frankfurt’s political police entered with a dozen 

68 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

plain-clothes men. I was sitting at the chairman’s 
table and fortunately recognized the intruders im¬ 
mediately. Within a moment the list of names had 
vanished. The police approached our table. 

“ What is the purpose of this meeting ? ' Why have 
you not notified the police, as was your duty ? ” Dr. 
Neubert, the chief, demanded. 

“ We are discussing swamp-draining as a necessary 
national measure,” I replied. 

^Dr. Neubert looked at Dr. Notter, who showed him 
his manuscript, then at me. 

“ You interested in swamp-draining. Miss Sender ? 
That does not convince me. We shall have to take 
the names and addresses of all persons present.” 

Immediately this was done, with the result that 
five or six of our visitors, well-known persons in Ger¬ 
many, were arrested and brought to the poKce station. 
The meeting was broken up. 

Those of us who had escaped met in the street. 
What now ? 

“ One of us must attend to the job of having our 
prisoners fireed. The rest must carry through the con¬ 
ference,” I said. 

“ But how can we do that ? Nobody will give us a 
meeting-place.” 

“ Nature will give it to us,” I retorted. “ AU our 
friends must be informed of the exact place in the 
near-by forest, a somewhat remote spot. We shall post 
our guards around to warn us in case anything sus¬ 
picious is noticed.” 

^ This plan was carried through. Again we met, this 
time in the evening and better on our guard. Stand¬ 
ing, we discussed and settled all our business undis- 



Tmi Sender 

turbed. In small groups we retxirned to the city. The 
next day all our prisoners were released. Nothing 
could be proved against them. The person who had 
denounced us to the police could not have known very 

much. . , 

Immediately after this incident I received another 
warning, A friend of mine in Berlin, Toni G., regularly 
sent me all available material on the opposition to 
the war, especially that of the Spartakus group, a 
radical movement sponsored by Rosa Luxemburg. 
Through fiiends I received a letter from Berlin saying 
that Toni was arrested and in jail. Why ? Without 
my knowledge my mail had been censored, and the 
authorities had discovered that Toni was dispatching 
the clandestine material. The letters I received did 
not show any traces of having been opened. But still 
I felt a terrible responsibility. Toni was a very 
delicate person. How would she be able to endure 
months of jail ? 

I decided to go at once to Berlin to look up Hugo 
Haase, the party chairman, with whom I had been 
corresponding for some time. Haase was a famous 
lawyer and I asked him to take Toni’s case and to try 
to get her free as soon as possible. He declared 
himself ready to do everything possible, not as a 
lawyer for money’s sake but as a comrade. While 
I was in Berlin, he saw her and arranged that she 
receive some reading material. But it was several 
months before she was freed. 

Meanwhile all my friends were informed that my 
address was no longer safe. We went on correspond¬ 
ing, of course, but through other addresses. 

As the military situation became worse, the German 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

authorities became more nervous. A number. of our 
friends ■ were arrested, among them the chairman 
of our Proletarian Freethinkers. Ever}^one was sur¬ 
prised that I was still free, most of all myself. I was, 
however, not mistaken about the deep interest the 
police and the courts were taking in me. A number 
of times the police searched my home. The last time 
they came with twelve men. But all searches were in 
vain. Since the incident with Toni G., I was prepared 
to receive them at any moment. Everything was in 
order at home—no letters, no copies, no literature. 
Only those who have experienced it can know what 
it means to carry on work and correspondence with 
an empty desk. Everything written had to be hidden 
in safe places outside my home, in spots not easily 
reached. The greatest difficulty was presented by the 
lists of addresses I had to keep. It was one of my tasks 
every Monday night to forward the Mitteilungshlatt^ 
edited in Berlin, to all our groups in south-western 
Germany. This weekly was published by the Berlin 
Socialists who opposed the war, and it carried valuable 
information not otherwise available. How many 
nights we worked straight through to get all the material 
out of the house ! 

I worked day and night without any signs of fatigue. 
I gave my employers no cause for accusing me of any 
negligence. I would have hated to disappoint them, 
so I conscientiously fulfilled my duties. I could not 
expect my employers to share my convictions, but 
often we had interesting political discussions, especially 
during the peace negotiations between Germany and 
Russia at Brest-Litovsk. Naturally they were con¬ 
vinced capitalists, but open-minded and critical. 



Tord Sender 

When I received my first summons to court, I was 
prepared to go to jail. However, what they asked of 
me was testimony against friends, opponents of the 
war in other cities. After the second experience of 
the kind, however, there was no doubt in my mind 
that the object was to make me incriminate myself. 
I was not quite so naive as they would have liked me 
to be. Though I had to testify without a lawyer’s 
assistance and the summons never told me in advance 
what case I was to give testimony on, I avoided 
incriminating either friends or myself. . Sometimes I 
managed by feigning a rather poor memory. Natur¬ 
ally I was never told what the other witnesses or the 
defendant himself had already admitted and what, 
therefore, could not be denied. In some cases I 
succeeded in informing the defendants of my testi¬ 
mony by having them brought from jail to a doctor 
or dentist and met there by a common friend. One 
finally acquires a routine also in clandestine work, 
especially when one’s conscience is clear in the con¬ 
viction that all one is doing is destined to serve the 
best interests of the people. When democracy is 
non-existent and the authorities rule by a state of 
siege, clandestine methods are forced upon those who 
refuse to cease thinking. 

The German ruling classes’ war aims meantime 
had become clearer than ever. They included the 
desire to annex the valleys of Briey and Longwy in 
France, to keep the major part of Belgium, to make 
the Baltic states German vassals, and to annex part 
of Russo-Polish territory. 

I was in contact with Hugo Haase, Eduard Bern¬ 
stein, the father of Socialist revisionism but a vigorous 

72 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

opponent of the war, and Karl Kantsky, the great 
Marxian scientist, and I kept them informed of the 
feehng of the anti-war groups in south-western Ger¬ 
many. Kautsky, by the end of I9i5> had declared 
in the magazine JYeue ^eit that the minority within 
the Socialist parliamentary group could no longer be 
mute but had to vote openly against the next motion 
for war credits. The result was that on March 24, 
1916, twenty Socialist members of the Reichstag voted 
against the credits. Haase, as the speaker of this 
minority, justified this attitude. We ail agreed with 
this step, although it broke the unity of the Social 
Democratic group in the Reichstag. Was not the 
parliamentary platform the only place in the country 
where something like free speech was possible ? But 
intolerance ruled the hour. The twenty members 
were expelled from the Socialist parliamentary group, 
and they formed a separate bloc. 

The intolerance of the Majority Sociahsts was 
reflected also in the party meetings in Frankfurt and 
elsewhere. We were deprived, by the action of the 
majority group, of any opportunity for free discussion. 

The majority had decided to have their leader, 
Philipp Scheidemann, come to Frankfurt to defend 
their viewpoint. Thereupon we had invited the 
Reichstag deputy Ewald Vogtherr, one of the twenty 
anti-war men. When the meeting opened, we pro¬ 
posed to grant Vogtherr the same time as Scheide¬ 
mann. The motion was put to the meeting and the 
vote convinced us that we had a majority. But the 
chairman refused to count the votes and declared 
the majority in favour of hearing only Scheidemann. 
At that time the bulk of the opposition to the war 

73 



Toni Sender 

was formed by women, trained in my women’s group. 
They were furious at the ruling of the chair and pro¬ 
tested vigorously against this dictatorial procedure. 
The meeting showed signs of disorder. Then occurred 
what I, nmvely, had never thought possible. A score 
of men resorted to physical violence to put all the 
protesting women outside the door ! When they 
came to me I challenged them : “ Do you dare to 
put your hands on me ? ” They did not touch me, 
but of course I would not remain in a group that 
had trampled upon all democratic rights. 

However, I kept a cool head. I called our mem¬ 
bers together and told them : “ This experience has 
proved that the supporters of the war credits are 
afraid that we, the opponents, could become the 
majority in the party—^therefore their provocation to 
make us leave the organization. Yet we want the 
unity of the labour movement. Don’t let us be fooled. 
We are confident that our convictions are right and 
in the end must be victorious.” 

It required a high amount of self-control to follow 
that route. It was more and more evident that the 
Majority Socialists wanted to split the party. In the 
party papers on which the executive had any influ¬ 
ence, anti-war editors were dismissed. And when in 
January, 1917, the Socialist opponents of the war 
called a conference in Berlin, the delegates and then- 
supporters in the country were expelled from the party 
without any opportunity of defence. I still consider 
it an honour to have belonged to those who were 
informed by the executive that they should consider 
themselves outside the party. 

Now that all our sacrifices for the unity of the 

74 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

labour movement-had been in vain, I urged Haase, 
Kautsky, and Bernstein to act immediately. It was 
plainly our duty to voice the will for peace of the 
starving millions. I knew their situation, for I myself 
had known hunger. Of course, I had a good income 
and could have afforded to pay any price for “ boot¬ 
leg’’ foodstuff. But I would not buy any of it. I 
would have felt ashamed to go to the meetings of the 
hungry workers and, well-fed, sit among them and 
discuss their problems and their sufferings. 

Many workers declared their solidarity with their 
expelled leaders. A new political organization had to 
be created. The leaders in Berlin had inevitably to 
recognize this. They finally did. At Easter, 1917, a 
convention was called in the venerable medieval city 
of Gotha in Thtiringen, for which old Wilhelm Bock, 
a highly respected leader of the Leather Workers 
Union, was a member of the Reichstag. Wilhelm had 
known at first hand Bismarck’s law against socialism 
and was a tested fighter. Once when we had him as 
a speaker he told of his activity under Bismarck’s law 
and of the way he had many times fooled the police. 
He gave some useful hints for our anti-war work. 

Bock had succeeded in organizing the convention 
which, in spite of the state of siege, was to become 
the founding congress of the Independent Social 
Democratic party of Germany (Unabhangige Sozial- 
demokratische Partei Deutschlands). The best minds 
of the German labour movement were with us. 
Besides Haase, Kautsky, Bernstein, and Bock, there 
was Kurt Eisner, the poet, the kindest and at the same 
time the most courageous of men, who went to jail 
for his anti-war conviction. Clara Zetkin, of course, 

75 



Toni Sender 

belonged to us and also Georg Ledebour, a Berlin 
member of the Reichstag and a fine example of the 
old type of labour fighter. With a sharp face and a 
slender body, Ledebour had a lame leg, which, how¬ 
ever, did not prevent him from climbing mountains. 
So fond was he of hiking that, whenever he came to 
Frankfurt during a week-end for a lecture, he would 
ask me to come with him to the Taunus Mountains. 
Not infirequently in the midst of our excursion he 
would start a dispute over some political questions 
on which we could not agree. He was pugnacious 
and stubborn. It certainly was not always easy for 
Haase, our leader, to get along with Georg in the 
national executive. But we all liked old Georg for 
his fine qualities as a fighter and comrade. He was 
one of the few persons who expressed themselves 
strongly in favour of a republic from the platform of 
the Reichstag. 

The Gotha convention was not without contro¬ 
versial incidents. The delegates of the Spartakus 
group, which was later to form the Communist party, 
joined our newly formed Independent Social Demo¬ 
cratic party with mental reservations. We all felt 
somewhat uncomfortable about it. But this was the 
only evidence of disharmony. Otherwise it was a 
gathering with a fine spirit of companionship and 
solidarity. 

Of course we expected at every moment that the 
authorities would dissolve our gathering, but we were 
happy to have found a political home again. In the 
midst of our solemn deliberations there were some 
humorous moments. One night, when I had returned 
to my hotel, I suddenly heard men’s voices singing 

76 



Fighting for Peace in Wartime Germany 

operatic arias under my window. It was a group of 
old comrades, led by Alfred Henke, member of the 
Reichstag from Bremen, serenading me from the old 
Gotha market-place. The moon smiled at the odd 
group of old fellows. It was a rare sight in those 
days of manslaughter, starvation, and sorrow. 

Conditions of life became even harder after the 
convention. The worst winter, that of 1917, when 
almost all food consisted in whole or in part of turnips, 
was before us. Bread made of flour mixed with 
turnips, turnips at luncheon and dinner, marmalade 
made of turnips—the air was filled with the smell of 
turnips and it almost made you vomit ! We hated 
turnips and had to eat them. They were the only 
foodstuff obtainable in abundance. 

I soon realized that a great change in the mentality 
of the people was taking place. They had lost their 
confidence in Ludendorff and Hindenburg, in the 
whole General Staff. At the beginning of the war 
rny colleagues in the metal firm kept aloof from me, 
since it was known that I was against the war, but 
with each passing year a greater number became 
friendly. Finally many of them came to me to discuss 
the political situation. They had begun to feel that 
things were going wrong in the German ruling circles. 

If some democratic freedom had existed during 
these months, our newly formed party certainly would 
have attracted a huge following. That was what made 
the authorities prohibit any public activity on our 
part. However, a way out was found. I was charged 
to follow the lecture tours of speakers of other parties, 
who, supporting the war, were free to address public 
meetings. My task was to ask for the floor in the 

77 



Toni Sender 

discussion period. The knack consisted first in getting 
the floor by making the audience curious and then 
in speaking in terms that made it difficult for the 
army officerj always present, to stop and arrest me. 
Old Georg Ulrich, knowm as the “ Red Duke from 
Hessen'' because he had become a member of the 
Reichstag for the Grand Duchy of Hessen, was one 
of the most popular figures in his state. He was the 
speaker I had to follow most of the time. He became 
nervous when I appeared. My speaking time was 
curtailed. They would not give me more than ten 
minutes. But towards the last year of the war I could 
feel the increasing curiosity of the audiences, and at 
the end of my ten minutes I could ask the audience 
myself if they wanted to hear more. I had some more 
interesting news for them, I would say. 

Let her speak longer/’ was the demand of the 
audience. 

The officers took down every word in shorthand, 
and I was prepared for arrest at any moment, although 
I tried to word my talks in such a way that they would 
not be incriminating. All my friends were amazed 
that I was still free. Only later was I to have an 
explanation of this amazing fact. 

One day I had to go to Russelsheim, to speak dur¬ 
ing the discussion period at a meeting of the women 
workers of the Opel automobile factory, then produc¬ 
ing only munitions. After I had delivered my talk, the 
entire audience remained when the meeting was over 
and asked me to open a new meeting. I complied, 
although of course I had no permit firom the army 
high command. One of our most active nuclei was 
started in this industrial town. 

78 



Fighting for Feme in Wartime Germany 

End the war This was our main demand. 
But It was negative demand, and it was not suffi¬ 
cient to satisfy those of us wffio looked into the future. 
To fight those forces that make for war, those who 
pressed for the imperiahst policies of Pan-Germanism 
—that was our^ purpose. Those forces, which had 
their foothold in heavy industry and among the 
barons of the big, vast Prussian estates, were the same 
that prevented Germany from becoming a firee demo¬ 
cratic country where the people had not only the right 
to die for their fatherland ” but to make it a nation 
with a government of the people, by the people, and 
for the people. 

When Haase came to Frankfurt to address a secret 
meeting, we conferred on this problem through an 
entire night. ^ Here for^the first time I had an oppor¬ 
tunity to realize that this excellent lawyer and political 
leader also had a great constructive mind. Neither 
of us doubted that the necessary great change in 
Germany could not happen without a revolution. It 
was a major necessity that such a revolution should 
not find us unprepared. 

“ We cannot expect to take power away from the 
war-makers for any length of time without touching 
the economic foundation of their political power,’’ I 
told Haase. ^ 

We are aware of that,” he retorted. I have 
contacts with many leading persons in economic life ” 
—and he gave a number of names which I cannot 
now repeat without denouncing them to Nazi ven¬ 
geance. They are ready to collaborate in the event 
of such a fundamental change. In contrast with 
Russia, we in Germany cannot afford any interrup- 

79 



Toni Sender 

tion, any stoppage, of the economic machinery, for 
this would risk having our people starve and finally 
revolt against the revolution itself. We need the 
utmost possible continuity of the industrial process. 
With the majority of the people behind us ready to 
build a new, free world, without political and eco¬ 
nomic slavery, we may succeed in making Germany 
a real homeland of the working people. We must 
rebuild the state from top to bottom. Meantime, 
we have to prepare for the moment. We must be 
ready when the great changes become possible.’’ 


8o 



IV 

THE EVE OF REVOLT 

The German people’s capacity for suffering must cer¬ 
tainly be above the average. They proved it during 
the war years of starvation and sacrifice. But this, 
too, reached its limit. Through my intimate contacts 
with the women of the working classes I knew what 
an impossible task was placed on their shoulders. 
Bread tickets were always insufficient for the man y 
hungry mouths. Tickets were issued for meat you 
often could not get or had not the money to buy. 
Butter and fat tickets did not mean you could obtain 
the quantity indicated on them. More often t h a n 
not the word “ butter ” on the ticket was all one saw 
of butter. I usually gave some of my bread tickets 
to families with many children. Faces grew paler, 
influenza took many victims. How could weak bodies 
resist ? 

Many of my women fnends worked in the muni¬ 
tions factories while their husbands were in the 
trenches. Their wages were needed to keep their 
households going. On Sundays they went with their 
knapsacks into the country in the hope of obtaining 
some food from the farmers. On their way home 
they had to take care to avoid the police, who would 
have taken the food from them. Bootlegging of food- 

81 



Toni Sender 

stuff was, of course, prohibited. These mothers, who 
had to carry a heavy economic burden in addition to 
their daUy fears for soldier husbands, were my most 
courageous aides in the fight for peace and for a 
better society. Not only did they feel most keenly 
the social injustices—^it was not unknown to them that 
butter, meat, and other foods were being brought into 
the houses of the wealthy, who could afford to pay 
any price for them—but they reahzed that the army 
high command had withheld the truth about the 
mihtary situation and the progress of the war. 

The war was lost—and still the fighting went on. 
Tens of thousands more were being killed. What 
for? Had not the Russians shown an example to 
be followed ? 

Robert Dissmann, released from the army, or rather 
the hospital, as “incurable”, had resumed his in¬ 
tense activity. It was due to his zeal that the majority 
of the men left in the factories, especially in the metal 
industry, were behind us. In every important plant 
we had our trusted contacts—in one day we could 
reach them ail. 

The last remnant of confidence in the rulers of the 
nation collapsed when, in September, 1918, after the 
failure of the army offensive, the defection of Bulgaria 
threatened Germany with the probable loss of Ru¬ 
mania. How could the war go on without Rumanian 
oil and foodstuffs ? The tide of military fortime had 
txxmed against Germany, and this could no longer be 
concealed from the people. 

Now, when aU was lost, those responsible took 
measures which might have had some value four years 
earlier. The government was reconstituted on a 

82 



The Eve of Revolt 

broader_ basis. Instead of the Kaiser’s nominating 
the ministers, the parties sent their delegates into the 
cabinet, which was headed by the liberal Prince Max 
von Baden. It was fear which forced Ludendorff 
and the General Staff to grant more rights to the 
people.^ Until the military defeat, our people had 
been given no chance to look behind the veil of the 
victory reports or to discuss public affairs in any 
critical way. Nobody knew it better than we. Only 
one public meeting had been permitted us—and that 
was after the coUapse at the front and the threatened 
separation of Austria from Germany. 

Impelled by General Ludendorff, the new govern¬ 
ment of Prince Max von Baden had to ask the Allies 
for an armistice. He addressed his request to Presi¬ 
dent Wilson. The President doubted if the constitu¬ 
tional changes were reaUy fundamental, since the 
Kaiser was still at the head of the nation and the 
geneials continued in influential positions. Distrust 
of Germany had not yet vanished. 

The national executive of the Independent Socialist 
Party in October, rgiS, published an appeal saying : 

Profound transformations are taking place in many 
nations the world will have a completely new face. 
It is the historic task of international labour to play 
a leading part in this process of transformation. A 
spirit of sacrifice and unity is absolutely necessary.” 

And very soon this spirit of sacrifice was shown by 
men who certainly had not received the maximum of 
political training but in whom rebellion had been 
awakened. When, on October 30, the Ge rman high 
seas ^fleet received orders to sail for the purpose .of 
making a great raid, ostensibly on England, the 



Tom bender 

crews of the Helgoland and the Thuringen refused to 
obey. 

The war is lost, over. Why this useless sacrifice ? 
To satisfy the pride of our officers, from whom we 
have suffered enough during these four years ? 
Never ! ” That was the sailors’ reaction. 

Immediately four hundred men of the Thuringen and 
two hundred of the Helgoland were arrested. It was 
too late, however, to intimidate the rest. Unafraid 
of threatened punishment, possibly death sentences, 
the sailors took things into their own hands, and by 
November 7 they had elected Sailors’ Councils. The 
workers in the shipyards joined them, electing Workers’ 
Councils. The sailors’ demands were elementary and 
naive, but the first was for peace and an end of the 
destructive influence of the Pan-Germans, the jingoes. 
These sailors, a majority of them from the working 
classes, had dared as early as 1917 to protest against 
treatment accorded by their officers, and two of them 
had paid for that with their lives. Since then they had 
formed secret associations and maintained some con¬ 
tact with Reichstag members of the Independent 
Socialist Party, Hugo Haase and Wilhelm Dittmann 
in particular. 

Luise Zietz, a member of our national executive, 
also enjoyed their confidence. Those who have known 
Luise can understand that quite well. I had met her 
first during the war when I was a member of our 
party’s advisory board, Luise came from a very poor 
family and even as a little girl was forced to work 
hard for a most meagre living. It was amazing what 
an iron energy this woman had developed from a 
childhood of such drudgery. She became a trade 

84- 



'The Eve of Revolt 

union leader and^ although she had received very little 
education, acquired a great amount of knowledge that 
enabled her to become the women's representative in 
the old Socialist party's executive and later one of 
the most industrious members of the Reichstag. She 
was the hardest-working person on the executive, re¬ 
fusing to recognize distinctions between women's tasks 
and general political duties. Her effectiveness as a 
popular speaker lay in her ability to understand the 
iheaning of poverty, of which she had had such a full 
measure. At any hour of the day or night she was 
ready to help. The sailors who had revolted in 1917 
against brutal treatment and bad food needed guid¬ 
ance. They had gone to Luise. What then seemed 
to be a lost cause became a year later, in November, 
1918, the signal for the German revolution. 

The flames started in the harbour city of Kiel. In 
the early November days revolutionaries, with the 
support of the workers, had taken possession of the 
city. Labour leaders had arrived. Would it be only 
a local uprising without national consequences ? Not 
if the sailors' will was done ! They understood that 
the fulfilment of their demands could be guaranteed 
only after a fundamental change in the entire nation. 
All those among the German people who understood 
the necessity for establishing a free and just social 
order sympathized with them. We felt the revolt 
coming nearer and wanted to lead it in such a direc¬ 
tion that the German people would show the world 
that something new had really been begun. The 
world should be brought to trust us. 

Robert Dissmann had gone to Berlin to discuss the 
situation with party leaders. On his return, early in 

85 G 



Toni Sender 

the morning of Friday, November 8, I went to meet 
him at the station. We agreed there that the moment 
to act had come. We decided to call aU our shop 
stewards together on the evening of the same day at 
the Schlesinger Eck, the meeting-place where we had 
finally achieved some feeling of security from denun¬ 
ciation by spies and police raids. The Schlesinger 
Eck was an old inn at the corner of Grand Gallus 
Street in the centre of the city. It had gone down 
in the hands of an innkeeper who seemed to be his 
own best customer. A dark staircase led to the upper 
floor, where we had our offices and meeting-room. 
It was not very clean and orderly, and we were not 
surprised if a mouse ran across our feet. But the 
innkeeper was a good-natured person, and so was his 
wife. They realized that they took chances in giving 
us asylum. Perhaps they sympathized with our work. 
After a long period of wandering from haU to hall, 
constantly ordered to move because of our anti-war 
attitude, we felt grateful for this shelter, although it 
was bare of any comfort. For the old Schlesinger Eck 
I retain a warm feehng of gratitude. There we were 
to have our memorable meeting during the night of 
this historic Friday. 

Robert went to his office to. have the invitations 
for the shop stewards printed and circulated the same 
morning ; I to my desk at the firm. It was impossible 
to concentrate on figures and business letters, on cal¬ 
culations and balance sheets. Great events were in 
the wind. I went to my employer. 

“ Please permit me to leave the office to-day.” 

“What is the reason?” 

“ I can’t stay in the building. I must go into the 

86 



The Eve of Revolt 

city, try to meet soldiers and speak to the people in 
the street. Something must happen soon, and I feel 
it my duty not to keep aloof.” 

Although far from being revolutionary, my em¬ 
ployers showed in those days a broad understanding. 
They, too, were probably prepared for stormy events 
and major changes. They let me go. 

Nervousness seemed to be in the air. Or was it 
merely my own nervousness transferred to the world 
surrounding me ? No, it could not be, for people to 
whom I talked in the streets were too responsive. 
Fifty-two months of exasperation finally had let loose 
a storm. They were furious above all at the realiza¬ 
tion that for more than four years they had not been 
told the truth, had been deceived about the situation 
on the battlefields and deliberately misled about 
events in the outside world. I had reached the main 
station when I saw a crowd. Sailors ! They had 
come from Kdel. Their blue blouses seemed a symbol. 
I rushed to meet them. They told me what had 
happened in Kiel, in the navy. 

“ Delegations of ssdlors have been sent to all parts 
of the country to bring the message and to ask you to 
support us,” they said. 

I answered : “ We are only too glad to do it. You 
can rely on us. My party, with all its heart, is with 
you.” 

“ But can you tell me how the capital, how Berlin, 
stands ? What about the government of Prince Max 
of Baden?” I asked. 

“ We don’t know. Nothing seems to have happened 
there yet. However, they must and will come with 
us.” 


87 



Toni Sender 

On I went to the railway station, which was 
guarded by a special army detachment. Their com¬ 
mander had ordered a search of all trains from North 
Germany for possible insurgents. I tried to talk with 
the soldiers. One non-commissioned officer was the 
most responsive. His name was Stitz. Although he 
was still very young, he was thoughtful and courageous. 

We must end the searching of the trains for 
revolutionary soldiers,’’ I told him. ‘‘ Will you try 
to bring the soldiers at the station in line with the 
sailors and the revolution ? ” 

Stitz agreed. That night two large red flags waved 
over the entrance of the Frankfurt central station. 

Meanwhile, news reached us that Munich had pro¬ 
claimed a republic. The Bavarian king had abdicated, 
and our Kurt Eisner, the poet and journalist, was the 
head of the new government. Peasants had joined 
with the Bavarian workers. That was encouraging 
news. We must hasten to join them. 

Army officers mixed with the people. They had 
rarely done so before then. But their suddenly pro¬ 
fessed feeling for democracy came too late. The 
soldiers began to tear off their officers’ shoulder straps. 
They would no longer recognize their former rela¬ 
tionship, which consisted, on their part, of blind 
obedience. However, it was probably not so much 
this rigid discipline that the soldiers most deeply 
resented as the fact that the army officers considered 
themselves a superior caste with special social and 
economic privileges. Not only had they ruled during 
the war, but, together with the Junkers of the big 
estates of Prussia and the masters of heavy industry, 
the military caste had worked hand in glove with the 

88 



The Eve of Revolt 

court and ruled the nation. They were, therefore, 
considered directly responsible for the war, for the 
defeat and suffering. Considering the intensity of 
the people’s misery, the mild treatment accorded the 
army officers was surprising. Only their shoulder 
straps were removed. No personal or physical harm 
was done any of them. In those midday hours of 
Friday we did not yet know what would happen in 
the barracks of the infantry. There was ferment 
among the soldiers, I learned, but about the attitude 
of the officers’ corps nothing was known. 

I met friends and they informed me that all the 
parties of Frankfurt had formed a Welfare Com¬ 
mittee ” and would address an appeal to the population 
to keep calm and create no disorder. What was the 
meaning of this Welfare Committee ? It could only 
be an attempt to prevent the revolutionaiy wave from 
reaching this part of the country. I saw Robert, 
and we agreed to issue a warning against this 
manoeuvre. 

Again I went into the streets, now more crowded. 
We decided to go to the barracks to establish contact 
with the soldiers. Heinrich Huttmann, a member of 
the Reichstag, an Independent Socialist, joined us. 
We were well received. Huttmann spoke - first. T 
followed. I told them of the events in the navy, the 
sailors’ message, and our determination to have south¬ 
western Germany follow their lead—if necessary, 
smashing all resistance. Enthusiastic applause ! The 
soldiers support the revolution ! They would set up 
soldiers’ councils. Before we could leave, I was 
approached and told that some soldiers had been 
arrested for insubordination. Would it not be an 

89 



Toni Sender 

appropriate first act of the republic to have them 
released ? At once I asked for the keys of the military 
jail. They were given to me. The released soldiers, 
full of gratitude for their unexpected freedom, em¬ 
braced me. 

However, it was time to rush to the Schlesinger 
Eck. Our friends from the factories must have 
arrived long ago. It was difiicult to walk in the 
streets, they were so clogged with masses of people. 
No news yet from Berlin, but at least in Frankfurt the 
people were backing the revolution. 

A thick cloud of smpke covered the gathering in 
the Schlesinger Eck. I heard Robert’s voice calling 
the names of all important factories and asking for 
the names of their delegates. Virtually all were 
represented, especially the munitions factories. Never 
had this place been so crowded. Robert gave an 
account of the latest events in the nation. He argued 
that the sailors’ rebellion would not be localized : 
the movement would spread, and it was our task to 
give it direction. Robert had the unlimited con¬ 
fidence of the workers. They knew him as a man 
who would be audacious when the moment came but 
who would always act in the interests of the masses. 
He would not fiivolously risk adventures but neither 
would he fear to take a chance. He never undertook 
anything without planning his strategy. His second 
step was considered before he undertook the first. 
He was loved by the factory workers, who were 
cheered by his singing Rhenish dialect. 

I followed Robert on the platform, giving a report 
of my experiences of the day and sketching what I 
thought must be the next steps. 

90 



The Eve of Revolt 

“ If Berlin is not yet ready, the provinces must act 
for themselves and push in the direction of the revolu¬ 
tion,” I said. “ We cannot wait for Berlin. Waiting 
longer can bring great danger. The estabhshment of 
this suspicious ‘ Welfare Committee ’ in Frankfurt is a 
distinct warning. If we do not act rapidly, the reaction 
will seize the opportunity to regain influence. We must 
create an unalterable situation and do our job well. 
Other provinces will follow. Frankfurt must lead for 
south-western Germany. That makes our quick deci¬ 
sion the more necessary. Is there a guarantee of 
success ? No revolution has had a one hundred per 
cent, guarantee of success, but our chances are excellent 
at the moment. Not only are the masses ready, but 
the ruling classes feel their own weakness.” 

And here I related some of my experiences of the 
last days with employers and their realization that 
great changes might be inevitable. 

“ If we act swiftly and thoroughly, great things may 
be accomplished without violence. Let us use the 
opportunity given us for the first time.” 

Robert and I had agreed to recommend the declara¬ 
tion of a general strike for the next morning. But 
first our friends must go back to their shops and 
organize elections of W^orkers’ Councils which would 
become the ruling instruments of the republic. It 
was Robert’s task to work out the details of the elec¬ 
tion. The duration of the strike could not yet be set; 
it depended upon events in the nation and further 
developments in our district. Of course, the striking 
workers could not expect to receive strike relief. It 
was to be a political strike, which is not financed but 
arises out of a readiness to sacrifice for the common 

91 



Toni Sender 

good. All understood that^ and all were ready. They 
had starved and suffered for a goal that they felt was 
not theirs. Now they would do dt readily for the 
people’s cause. 

At this point one of our friends in the army arrived 
to tell us that simultaneously with our meeting of the 
shop stewards^ a gathering of soldiers’ councils was 
taking place in the elegant hotels the Frankfurter Hof. 
Great confusion governed their deliberations. Un¬ 
known men had taken the leadership, and there was 
immediate need for intervention by a person of 
political experience ; otherwise all we decided here 
would be defeated by the inexperience of the soldiers. 
Robert was ready to go, and it took him the greater 
part of the night to handle this most difficult job. 

In the first hours of the revolution we encountered 
what was to prove to be its main handicap, the 
Soldiers’ Councils. The soldiers, to a large extent, 
were completely untrained politically. What they 
demanded was the end of the war with as little disturb¬ 
ance as possible. They wanted to be able to go 
home and to work. They were not concerned with 
the need to uproot those forces which had led the 
people into war. They neither knew nor understood 
enough of social and economic currents. But for the 
moment they had the arms and they had a voice in 
establishing the new Germany. The programme of 
the Soldiers’ Councils in contrast with that of the 
workers, was not revolutionary. They were weary of 
the war and, of course, were ready to support the 
young republic. But what kind of republic it would 
be did not concern them too much. They could not 
understand why the political parties should worry 

92 



The Eve of Revolt 

about a programme of action. Practice would reveal 
the tasks to be done. That you can lose your cause 
when you do not see clearly ahead, plan and firmly 
execute your programme, did not occur to them. 

While Robert was struggling at the Frankfurter 
Hof, I had taken the chair in the shop stewards’ 
meeting. We could not suspend the course of the 
revolution while the soldiers talked. Details of the 
general strike had to be arranged, I did it on the 
basis of information that the more experienced men 
furnished. 

There were several obstacles we had to be prepared 
to meet. Our experiences with the Frankfurt police 
force in the past had not been favourable. The 
police commissioner, Riess von Scheurnschloss, was a 
man of the old aristocracy, entirely devoted to the old 
regime. He could not be left in power without 
endangering the safety of the new democratic institu¬ 
tions. We had had no word from him during all 
these turbulent hours. Quick decision was necessary. 
I asked the men to authorize me to have the police 
commissioner arrested. It was then nearly three 
o’clock in the morning. I chose four men to go to 
the main police station and, if necessary, to the com¬ 
missioner’s home. But I did not expect the chief of 
Frankfurt’s police to be at home on the night when 
his regime was threatened with demolition. 

“What shall we do with the man once we have 
him arrested ? ” asked one of the men who had been 
assigned the task. 

“ Take him to the Frankfurter Hof and give him 
into the custody of the Soldiers’ Council,” I ordered. 
“ The Soldiers’ Councils will have the task of maintain- 

93 



Toni Sender 

ing public order, while we, the Workers’ Councils, will 
be in charge of all civil affairs.” 

The assembly agreed, and the four men left while 
we went on with our business. 

An hour later they returned and gave us their 
report. The police commissioner had not been found 
at the main police station. He had been at home, 
asleep ! Crowds were pushing through the streets ; 
barracks were taken over, prisoners released, red flags 
flown from the central station ; soldiers and workers 
were deliberating and making decisions of great con¬ 
sequence—and during all that time the old Prussian 
police chief had slept soundly, perhaps even undis¬ 
turbed by dreams. Could there be a better illustration 
of how aloof this caste was from the life of the people ? 
The leader of the delegation, R., had forced the com¬ 
missioner to leave his bed and to dress. R. asked him 
whether he was ready to recognize the new authorities. 
The commissioner, in complete ignorance of the extent 
to which the revolutionary movement had grown 
during his slumber, would not commit himself. 
Thereupon he was arrested and, according to instruc¬ 
tions, placed in custody at the Frankfurter Hof. He 
was never reinstated. We in. our province did things 
thoroughly. His first successor, appointed the night 
of his arrest, was Dr. Hugo Sinzheimer, a lawyer and 
professor of social science at the University of Frank¬ 
furt, who was later succeeded by men from the labour 
movement. 

But let us go back to the Schlesinger Eck. The 
next important personality to be reckoned with was 
the mayor of the city, Herr Voigt. He was given the 
alternative of recognizing the new regime or resigning. 

94 



The Eve of Revolt 

He came to the council'.to declare that he was r 
to place himself entirely at the disposal of the Wor 
and Soldiers’ Council. Although not a revolutioi 
he kept his promise. 

Meanwhile, Robert had returned, and I asked 
to take the chair again. He reported on his attempt 
to bring the two councils together. He had finally 
succeeded in making arrangements for collaboration 
Time was pressing, and much work was still aheac 
of us. None of us was tired—we were living sucl 
tense and happy hours. We were a community bounc 
together by reciprocal confidence. I, therefore, wa 
not surprised that nobody questioned my leadership 
although I was only in my twenties and there wer« 
many greybeards in the hall. 

Robert thought that it was time to prepare j 
proclamation to the population, informing it of wha 
had occurred during the night and inviting it to job 
the movement and support the newly born republic 
The assembly assigned the task of composing thi 
proclamation to Dr. Georg Plotke and me. W 
immediately went to work. Dr. Plotke was a youni 
dramatist of the municipal theatres, a gifted write 
who in spite of his official position had been courageou 
enough to join our movement during the war. 1 
real idealist, he put himself at the disposal of the labou 
movement in a most unselfish way. Alas, he wa 
soon to become a victim of this unselfishness. A fe\ 
weeks later elections approached, and he was askec 
to campaign in the Taunus Mountains. Georg 
although aflfected by a serious attack of influenza, left hi 
bed to do his duty. A few days later we had to bur 
tHs dear friend, this very promising young talent. 

95 



Toni Sender 

That night of revolution we sat and together tried 
to elaborate the text of our appeal. But Georg, 
although a man of letters, had had no experience in 
polidcal life and had not yet had the opportunity to 
know the masses. Finally he asked me to write the 
proclamation and to submit it to him ; together we 
would then present it to the shop stewards. I was in 
a mood of exaltation. Was it not the great moment 
of the German people’s life, the moment for which 
we had lived and for which we had prepared during 
four dismal years? Could not some of our keenest 
dreams now become reality? Of course nothing 
seemed to have happened yet in the capital, but 
Berlin could not fail us; revolution would soon come 
there too. 

I wrote. I announced the success of the revolution, 
the establishment of a socialist republic. I advised the 
population that Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils had 
been formed and now represented the supreme author¬ 
ity. The young republic would make the utmost 
effort to conclude a speedy and decent peace treaty. 
The proclamation closed with an appeal to the people 
to help establish a system of social justice. 

Georg was enthusiastic. We brought the text to 
the gathering. They, too, fully approved. And now 
came the second part of our job. It was essential 
that all the newspapers that morning carry our 
proclamation. Thereupon the shop stewards assigned 
to Dr. Plotke and me the task of censors for the entire 
press. Together we. went out. Seeing two sailors in 
a military car we stopped them, informed them of 
our mission and asked them to take us to all the 
newspaper offices in town, and this they did. At 

96 



The Eve of Revolt 

each newspaper office we demanded to see the chief 
editor and asked him to show us the galley proofs of 
the next day’s paper. It did not occur to me that 
we might meet any serious resistance, although such 
a thought certainly would not have made us give up. 
But all the editors were co-operative. Reading the 
proofs, I found that they all planned to carry the 
appeal of the infamous “ Welfare Committee,” which 
was then on its way to political oblivion. We ordered 
the appeal out of the papers. It would only have 
created confusion. A few hours later the Frankfurter 
Zeitung, and finally the other morning papers, appeared 
with big white spaces where the Welfare Committee’s 
statement would have been. The Workers’ Council’s 
manifesto was published in full. During the night 
Hermann Wendel, a member of the Reichstag and a 
gifted writer, was made head of the semi-official news 
agency, the Wolff Telegraph Bureau, and was ordered 
to bar firom it any counter-revolutionary manoeuvres. 

In co-operation with the Soldiers’ Council we had 
immediately to take over the most difficult and most 
responsible job in a blockaded land—^provision of 
sufficient food to feed the people. We were fortunate 
in having an excellent organizer ready to help us. 
The head of the military hospitals placed at our dis¬ 
posal his first aide, an extremely able man, who was 
to assist us in organizing the food supply for the civil 
population and the garrison. 

It was dawn before aU was done. No one had any 
thought of sleep. There would not be much oppor¬ 
tunity to sleep anyway during the conoing days. A 
cold shower and high nervous tension kept me wide 
awake. Would this be the great turning-point? 

97 - 



Toni Sender 

Would we give the German people for the first time 
in their history the right to complete self-government ? 
If we succeeded in this and could also abolish the old 
system of privileged castes and classes and make the 
Germans a really free and independent nation, then, 
I thought, a new era would begin, a new era not only 
for Germany, but for the peoples of all Europe. It 
was the hour of hope—and action. 


98 



V 

DAYS OF REVOLUTION 


The morning is cool and unfriendly. A fine rain is 
pouring on us as we come into the street. 

What are the people thinking ? Will the revolution 
be victorious ? Slowlyj men, women, and children 
appear in the streets. Soon the thoroughfares are 
crowded. A holiday mood dominates the city. Has 
the young republic only fervent adherents among the 
population ? Nearly everybody is wearing a small 
red ribbon ! I suddenly realize that I myself have 
no red ribbon and no badge. Everyone seems to be 
cheerful, undisturbed by the rain. Have they all 
become revolutionaries ? For some of them, at least, 
it seems to me to be too sudden a conversion to be 
true. This unexpected, universal republican fervour 
makes me feel highly suspicious. Were some of them 
not men who had hailed the Kaiser, bowed to the 
aristocracy, railed against France, denounced the 
Allies? Too sudden was the change—one night of 
bold measures had been enough. Firm convictions 
are not acquired so rapidly. 

A professed sympathy for the new German demo¬ 
cracy was characteristic of the former ruling classes 
during the short first period of the republic. They 
did not oppose the republic. On the contrary, they 

99 



DAYS OF REVOLUTION 


The morning is cool and unfriendly. A fine rain is 
pouring on us as we come into the street. 

What are the people thinking ? Will the revolution 
be victorious ? Slowly, men, women, and children 
appear in the streets. Soon the thoroughfares are 
crowded. A holiday mood dominates the city. Has 
the young republic only fervent adherents among the 
population? Nearly everybody is wearing a small 
red ribbon ! I suddenly realize that I myself have 
no red ribbon and no badge. Everyone seems to be 
cheerful, undisturbed by the rain. Have they all 
become revolutionaries ? For some of them, at least, 
it seems to me to be too sudden a conversion to be 
true. This unexpected, universal republican fervour 
makes me feel highly suspicious. Were some of them 
not men who had hailed the Kaiser, bowed to the 
aristocracy, railed against France, denounced the 
Allies? Too sudden was the change—one night of 
bold measures had been enough. Firm convictions 
are not acquired so rapidly. 

A professed sympathy for the new German demo¬ 
cracy was characteristic of the former ruling classes 
during the short first period of the republic. They 
did not oppose the republic, On the contrary, they 

99 



Toni Sender 

seemed extremely glad that the working class had the 
courage to undertake Uquidation of the bankrupt old 

regime. -r i i • j- 

What a task was before us ! I had an immediate 

presentiment of obstacles arising in all directions, 
although for the moment everything seemed to go 
smoothly. But of the many difficulties that were soon 
to appear on the horizon, especially difficulties created 
by foreign countries and by our own military and civil 
authorities, nobody could know on this promising 
morning of November 95 

Our shop stewards had gone to their factories to 

arrange for the election of Workers Councils. Imme¬ 
diately we were concerned with another problem. 
How many would come to the Osthafen, the grounds 
at the outskirts of the city, where we had called them 
for a “ rally of the masses ” ? _ Our doubts were soon 
removed. When, together with Robert Dissmann, I 
reached the grounds, hundreds already awaited us. 
Soon great masses followed. Thousands first, then 
tens of thousands. Before long the vast area was black 
with men and women. Huttmann, Robert, and I 
were the speakers. We had no amplifiers. A few 
trucks had been parked here and there, and I had to 
climb from one to another, to speak again and again to 
reach all those who wished to hear. Enthusiasm ran 
high. An extraordinary inspiration united all of us. 
What tremendous possibilities the situation seemed 
to offer, if only we were equal to decisive deeds, 
especiaUy in this first period of the revolution. ^ 
Ten years later I met an old friend of mine who 
had attended this mass rally. He told me how deeply 
he had been struck by the serious note of the speeches 

100 


Days of Revolution 

in that moment of triumph. In that first hour, we 
had warned the workers not to be too confident. 
The most important work had still to be accomplished. 
The revolution would be victorious only if it succeeded 
in building up completely new administrations in the 
army, in government, and in the judiciary. It would 
not be enough that a high official or a judge placed a 
little red ribbon in his buttonhole. He must be a 
genuine friend of the new order. The forces which 
had striven for annexations and continuation of the 
war were still there, though for the moment not audible. 
They were supported by the wealthy agrarians in 
East Prussia and by the barons of coal, iron, and steel 
in western Germany. They must be dethroned in 
order that democracy might be safe. That must be 
among the first deeds of the revolutionary central 
government which was to be formed. Our task, the 
mission of the masses who understood the meaning of 
these historic events, was to back the new govern¬ 
ment and to protect it with our lives as soon as 
it met with the active resistance of the forces of the 
past. 

Often, since Germany has turned to acts of barbaric 
cruelty, I have been asked by people who seemed to 
be very revolutionary (although they had never gone 
through the experience of a revolution theinselves), 
“ Why did not the Germans in November, 1918, when 
the revolutionaries still had the power, execute the 
counter-revolutionaries ? ” Whom should the revolu¬ 
tion have executed ? No opponent then appeared^— 
no Hitler, no Goebbels, and no Goring. It is even 
reported that Hitler in those days joined the Majority 
Sociahsts. There may be moments in history when 

lOI H 



Toni Sender 

energetic, rapid action is necessary, even to decreeing 
the extreme penalty. But that is not essential to a 
revolution. The fundamental transformation of the 
economic and political system, the creative task, is far 
more important, and it alone can give us the right to 
speak of a genuine revolution. 

In those exciting November days nobody dared to 
commit himself to the regime of the past. A scene I 
never shall forget was the visit of a general of the high 
command of the eighteenth army corps to the more 
than humble headquarters of the Workers’ Council. 
He arrived solemnly, dressed in civilian clothes, to 
place himself at the disposal of the Workers’ and 
Soldiers’ Council. He expressed an understanding of 
the things that had happened these last days and, 
apparently in a spirit of genuine patriotism, wanted 
to support the masses in the interest of the weU-being 
of the nation. Only those who have known the proud 
caste of German generals can realize what an amount 
of self-denial this man needed for his step. Was he 
sincere ? He seemed to be ; but the councils never¬ 
theless assigned control to two of its delegates to make 
sure. 

■ This contact with the officers of the Generalkommando 
furnished a solution to the puzzle of why I had not 
been arrested during the war, although some of my 
less active comrades had been. One of the officers 
asked me, “ Do you know, Frau ^ Sender, why you 

1 In German political life it is customary to refer to a woman who 
takes part in public affairs as Frau (“ Mrs.”) whether or not she be 
married. It was as Frau Sender that the author of this autobiography 
became known in Germany. It was natural, on her trips to this 
country, for “ Frau ” to be translated as “ Mrs.” and the author there¬ 
fore has become known as Mrs. Sender though she never has married. 

102 ' 



Days of -Remlution 

were not arrested ? '’ ' My answer was^ Because I 
committed no offence ! 

I don’t know about that,” he retorted, but I do 
know that the high command of the army wanted 
your arrest and asked your employer to dismiss you 
from your position in the metal trust. But your em¬ 
ployer declared he would not dismiss you ; that your 
activities after office hours were none of his concern. 
He said he was convinced, however, that you would 
not work against the interests of the nation, and he 
was willing to give a guarantee for your loyal attitude. 
This guarantee gave you your liberty.” 

I was amazed. Of course I was convinced I had 
acted during the entire war in the best interests of 
the nation. But the chivalry of my employer in 
assuming such an undertaking with the liighest 
military authority, without mentioning a word to 
me, was impressive indeed. 

Things had finally begun to move rapidly in Berlin, 
too. A Council of People’s Representatives was 
formed, taking the place of a central government. 
My friend and party leader, Hugo Haase, was one 
of the members. They rendered accounts to the 
newly formed Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils of 
Berlin. The Kaiser and the Crown Prince had 
renounced the throne. Strangely enough, the news 
of this event did not provoke a sensation. The 
German monarchy’s abdication was acknowledged 
without regret. 

Our Workers’ Council undertook its duties immedi¬ 
ately. It elected its executive, of which I became a 
member with the function of secretary. The council 
was very popular. Many personalities and people of 

103 



Toni Sender 

all classes wanted to become members, but their 
admission would have been at variance with the 
purpose of the new institution : to be the expression 
of the new forces, disinherited in the old regime, 
which had taken over power to build up a new state. 
As secretary, I was in charge of admissions. During 
our first meeting, Dr. Hermann Luppe, the deputy 
mayor of the city, and Dr. Wilhelm Cohnstadt, editor 
of the Frankfurter !feitung^ appeared and demanded 
the right to enter in the name of the Liberal party. 
There was great embarrassment among the members 
of the council who guarded the entrance. Could one 
refuse admission to the mayor and a well-known 
editor? I went to the door and asked the gentle¬ 
men what they desired. They repeated their request. 

I am very sorry, gentlemen, but you cannot enter 
as long as you are not members of the Workers’ Council. 
They only are assembled here, not the old parties.” 

A moment of surprise—but my decision was ac¬ 
cepted. Later we became very good friends, and often, 
when we met, my dear friend. Dr. Cohnstadt, would 
remind me that at our first meeting I had shut the 
door in his face. In his fine feeling for justice he 
recognized, however, that I was perfectly right and 
that a similar attitude by the leaders of the revolution 
in big as well as in small things would have led us 
further towards our objectives. Alas, Wilhelm Cohn¬ 
stadt, a genuine republican and one of the finest 
characters I have met, became one of the first victims 
of the counter-revolution of 1933. He escaped the 
Nazis and found asylum in the United States, but he 
could not survive humiliation and exile. The bar¬ 
barians had killed a too sensitive soul. 

104 



Days of Revolution 

The tasks of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils 
were manifold. Not only was it necessary to keep the 
normal functioning of the administration under con¬ 
trol^ but emergencies came up almost every hour. 
The formation of Farmers’ Councils was demanded 
by some villages a.nd they asked for military protec¬ 
tion. People came to offer their services, others 
wanted information. The university had to be put 
under the control of the Workers’ Council. Dr. Hugo 
Sinzheimer, the new police commissioner, took it 
upon himself to accomplish this task and addressed 
the university senate in a speech characteristic of the 
spirit of the revolution. 

I come,” he said, to tell you that the new Ger¬ 
many wants to cultivate the intellect and humanism. 
The representatives of the revolution are inspired by 
reverence for both. We don’t come to offer you 
coercion and oppression. What I have to offer you 
is freedom and confidence, freedom for science and 
research. You have only to serve the truth and 
nothing else.” 

The rector of the university answered that the 
faculty and senate recognized the authority of the 
Workers’ Council, but it was symptomatic that at 
this early moment the students tried to protest. They 
did not appreciate the liberty for science and truth 
offered by the republic and later helped to bring on 
the regime of oppression and regimentation of science, 
where the search for truth for truth’s sake is pro¬ 
hibited. 

We had decided to send a delegation to the City 
Council to put it under the control of the Workers’ 
Council. The City Council assembled for that pur- 

105 



Toni Sender 

pose. Georg Bernard, a worker and an officer of the 
Metal Workers Union, led the delegation with much 
dignity. When he had ended his address and the 
mayor, after deliberation with the senior members, 
had announced that the City Council and all officials 
of the city accepted the Workers’ Council as the 
highest authority, Bernard asked the mayor to hoist 
the red flag on the City Hall tower. He had been 
foresighted enough to bring a large red flag with him, 
so there was no chance for delay ! 

But there was still the Board of Aldermen, the 
more conservative body of the city administration, 
composed mostly of learned elderly gentlemen. I 
was among the four representatives assigned by the 
Workers’ Council to control all activity of the board. 
They had to invite me to every one of their meetings. 
And they did, though reluctantly. The three men 
assigned to the task with me seldom appeared, so 
that I had to lead the fight with the old men all by 
myself. Some of them, of course, thought they could 
take advantage of this fact and tried to bind me to 
rash commitments. But I was on my guard. 

“ What is the Workers’ Council’s opinion on the 
subject ? ” one of them would suddenly shoot at me, 
in the hope of embarrassing this young person, ignor¬ 
ing my business experience and the responsibilities I 
had handled before. Quietly I would answer, if the 
matter was sufficiently familiar to me. When it was 
not, I simply admitted the fact and asked for suspen¬ 
sion of the decision until I had discussed the problem 
with the council’s executive. One of the aldermen, a 
Professor S., nevertheless tried the manoeuvre again 
and again, although in vain. He probably did not 

io6 



Days of Redolution 

realize that I had begun to enjoy the procedure as a 
useful and pleasant mental sportj a good^ preparatory 
school for my subsequent activities. I am still grateful 
to the old gentlemen who tried so hard to torture me. 

During those first weeks of the republic I had very 
little time to sleep. Many a night we had to work 
straight through on great problems. What should be 
done with the 70,000 or 80,000 munitions workers 
and the returning soldiers ? The employers intended 
to go on with the manufacture of munitions. Of 
course they assumed that government contracts v/ould 
go on. We rigidly opposed that idea. This was a new 
regime that wanted to show the world its will for 
peace. Our decision was that the manufacture of war 
instruments had to be stopped immediately. We 
would collaborate in the shift to peace production, 
but would not permit discharge of workers. The 
working day was to be not longer than eight hours, 
and we reduced it to only four hours, when necessary, 
to make place for the homecoming soldiers. 

A bad omen appeared in the early hours of the 
revolution, when the first news of the armistice con¬ 
ditions was received. It was the first -snew^hat fell 
on the young buds of our revolutionary expectations. 
The Allies demanded immediate evacuation of Bel¬ 
gium and France—which was only just—but also, 
within fourteen days, of Alsace-Lorraine, which was 
more difficult since it had been German territory for 
almost fifty years. The allies, moreover, demanded 
evacuation of the left bank of the Rhine by German 
troops, delivery of 5,000 locomotives and 150,000 
railway cars, a neutral zone on the right bank of the 
Rhine, payment by Germany for the maintenance 

107 



Toni Sender 

of the foreign army of occupation, and the release of 
prisoners of war without reciprocity for captured 
Germans. The blockade was to go on. German ships 
might be seized. The last two conditions were a very 
poor promise for. the coming peace treaty. They be¬ 
trayed a spirit without mercy for the German people, 
who had driven out those responsible for the policy 
of the past and who now manifested a strong and 
spontaneous will for peace and justice. Alas ! The 
Allies did not understand this and lost a wonderful 
opportunity to make a better world. It is to a large 
extent on account of this blind spirit of victory and 
revenge that two decades later the world is paying 
with war and the waste of billions. 

The hostility of the foreign authorities towards the 
new people’s state manifested itself in still another 
way. When the representatives of the Allies came to 
negotiate the conditions for the execution of the 
armistice, a British admiral demanded that no repre¬ 
sentative of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils be a 
member of the German negotiating committee—an 
open affront to the German republican masses. All 
our attempts to plead for more understanding for 
our cause abroad were of no avail. As early as 
November 15 the women of Frankfurt sent a radio 
message to the United States imploring the Allies to 
end the hunger blockade, which, now that the war 
was over, was directed exclusively against the civil 
population, starving women and babies. Shortly after 
that the Government of the People’s Commissars sent 
an appeal to the working classes of all countries to 
help end the hunger war against a defenceless people. 
But all in vain—the Allies were inexorable against the 

108 



Days of Redolution 

republic. The blockade continued after the signing 
of the armistice. 

What an almost impossible task it was under these 
circumstances for the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils 
to provide the population with food ! The situation 
was further complicated by the dislocations involved 
in demobilizing an army of millions of soldiers. Add 
to this the fact that all soldiers had to be withdrawn 
not only from foreign soil but also from the left 
bank of the Rhine by December 9. Since Frankfurt 
was one of the central points of the border near the 
territory to be occupied by the Allies after the armistice, 
our councils were responsible for bringing back the 
troops with the utmost speed. The soldiers would 
otherwise become prisoners of war. 

They were mostly unknown men who took care 
of this tremendous task—and it was almost a miracle 
that they succeeded. Frankfurt had put at the dis¬ 
posal of the troops fifty-two of her schools. At one 
station and on a single day 60,000 soldiers were re¬ 
ceived ! It was a terrific task, demanding a maxi¬ 
mum of devotion and talent for organization. What 
bothered us as much as board for the soldiers was 
their political tendencies. These were men from the 
trenches who had not read an honest newspaper for 
a long period and were ignorant of much that had 
happened. Many, so we were told, were still under 
the influence of their conservative officers. Rapidly 
we had to prepare leaflets informing the soldiers of 
recent events. Messengers were sent to meet them 
before their arrival in Frankfurt. 

During these weeks I was still an employee of the 
metal trust. I knew that my employer was being 

109 



Toni Senior 

urged by the heads of other firms to fire me. They 
thought it intolerable that a person so active in the 
revolution should be the head of a department of a 
capitalist concern. Not wishing to damage the firm, 
I asked my employer if he thought we could go on 
in spite of the fact that I was at the office very irregu¬ 
larly, for I was frequently detained by Workers’ 
Council activities. Again I met the same generous 
attitude. 

“ If you think you can serve the common good, I 
do not want to prevent you fi-om doing so. I know 
you will tell me if ever you feel that your activities 
in both fields are incompatible,” Dr. S. replied. 

In those days it was considered a privilege to obtain 
a permit to ride on the railways or to drive a car. 
Permits were issued by the Workers’ and Soldiers’ 
Councils. If it was a privilege, it certainly was no 
pleasure. Train equipment had run down during 
the war. On account of the coal shortage, cars were 
not heated. And it happened to be a cold winter. 
Besides being occupied with my office work, my 
activity for the Workers’ Council, and my control of 
the Board of Aldermen, I was one of the main party 
speakers for a large district, including the provinces 
of Hessen-Nassau and Hessen-Kassel and the state of 
Baden. Though I had caught a severe cold, I had, 
nevertheless, to go on with my work—^you cannot go 
to the hospital when you are needed for things that 
promise to prepare a great future. Worse than 
the unheated railway cars were the old, worn-out, 
open army automobiles put at our disposal! Not 
only was one exposed to cold, rain, and wind, but 
these cars had come from the front and had not been 


no 



Days of Redolution 

repaired or given any attention. They usually broke 
down when one was riding late in the night on a 
distant highway in a drenching rain, or snow. One 
had to stop and waitj sometimes for hours, until the 
necessary repairs were made, the tyres vulcanized, or 
often more difficult work done. There was not much 
traffic on the highways, especially at so late an hour. 
Often it was breakfast time before we returned to 
Frankfurt. After two or three meetings the same 
evening in different towns, where I usually was the 
only speaker, I felt some need for a rest—but was 
glad when I found the time for a shower. 

On one of those numerous trips to Baden we almost 
became French prisoners. Driving back during the 
night from Mannheim on a slippery road, in snowy 
weather, all of a sudden, on our w^ay through the 
Messeler Park, we ran into French bayonets ! We 
did not know that the French had occupied the 
territory that night. My driver was terrified. He 
saw himself a French prisoner. 

Be calm,’’ I told him, and do as I tell you.®^ 

I spoke to the soldiers in my best Parisian accent 
explaining to them my ignorance and desire to comply 
with the law. I did not miscalculate. Being ap¬ 
proached by a lady, they responded as gentlemen and 
said they would not see us if we vanished. 

“ Rush back as fast as you can,’’ I told my driver, 
who had not understood a word of our conversation 
but who did as ordered and was mighty glad to 
escape. 

Finally, I could not withstand the drain on my 
strength any longer. A high fever and a severe attack 
of influenza affected my lungs. The doctor told my 

III 



Toni Sender 

sister Recha, who by chance had come that day to 
Frankfurt, that my family should be prepared for 
the end. But I survived the critical night, and, as 
soon as I could think again, wrote the articles which 
our weekly expected from me. But the fever persisted 
and I had to stay in bed. 

Meanwhile,'the government had decided on elections 
to the Constituent Assembly as early as January 19. 
The campaign had to begin very soon. Our con¬ 
stituency included territory occupied by the Allied 
armies, and everyone who wanted to address meet¬ 
ings in the occupied zone needed a special permit 
from the foreign military authorities. In our party 
I was the only one who had been granted such a 
permit for certain specified days. Those days were 
approaching, and the high fever had not yet left me. 
Robert came to see me. 

“ I am sorry,” he said, “ but you are the only one 
who has received permission to speak. Here are the 
permits. We cannot possibly let them expire without 
making use of them. You must go, Toni. Do your 
best.” 

“ Fm afraid I haven’t the strength yet to do it,” I 
felt compelled to answer. “ I still feel dizzy and am 
afraid I could not stand on my feet and speak for an 
hour.” ' 

“Then speak less than an hour,” Robert replied. 
“ It is impossible for the party not to be heard in the 
occupied territory before election day.” 

“ All right. I will try it.” 

And they sent an open army car to take me to 
Hochst, Hattersheim, and other occupied towns. It 
was physically my most difficult job. My fever was 

112 



Days of Remlution 

high. I was too dizzy to stand during my speech and 
had to ask for a chair. I went through with all the 
meetings, but when I finally reached home I felt I 
would collapse. 

Similar foolhardy experiences gnawed at my health. 

I should have to pay for it later. But in those days 
duty to the cause came before everything else—^family, 
personal interest, health—everything. 

The date for convening the Constituent Assembly 
had become the crucial point of a controversy be¬ 
tween the two wings of the revolution—a controversy 
that was reflected in our Workers’ Council. The con¬ 
servatives of all shades suddenly were tremendously 
enthusiastic about democracy. They could not have 
it fast enough. 

“ As quickly as possible, the Constituent Assembly ! 
Equal rights for every citizen ! ” they shouted. No 
delay of general elections ! 

The overwhelming majority of us were for democ¬ 
racy, but that could not prevent those among us 
who had understood the meaning of the revolution 
from demanding that the government should first satisfy 
the claims of the revolutionary masses : accomplish 
such a change in the fundamental structure of the new 
repubhc that a repetition of such disasters as the 
World War would be made impossible. 

To accomplish this, we must dethrone those powers 
responsible for the past—otherwise all the work of 
the revolution would have to be repeated some day, 
and possibly the price of this negligence would be 
very high. However, there was a strange combina¬ 
tion of forces against us. All the reactionaries saw their 
opportunity to escape any fundamental change and 



Toni Sender 

shouted, “ Election ! Democracy ! ” The Majority 
Socialists (the right wing) were not prepared for 
revolutionary changes and were perfectly satisfied to 
have only parliamentary government. The soldiers, 
weary and desiring only to get back home and again 
lead a normal life, joined them. The discussion came 
up in our Frankfurt Workers’ Council. We showed 
that it was against the interest of the republic to pre¬ 
cipitate the elections. The soldiers returned home 
slowly. Many of them had been out of touch with 
political matters for four years. The Independent 
Social Democratic Party, during the entire period of 
the war, had been cut off firom public opinion, and 
all its public activity had been prohibited. We had 
to reach the masses before a fundamental decision 
was taken. 

“ They could wait almost sixty years, without giving 
us equal rights,” Robert exclaimed in the Workers’ 
Gotmcil meeting. “ Now suddenly they manifest such 
a suspicious love for democracy.” 

It was in the same mood that I addressed a mass 
meeting on December i, 1918. 

“ The heavy burden that will follow the war can 
be borne only by a society that has changed the entire 
structure of the state. The inexorable armistice con¬ 
ditions are to be attributed not to the revolution but 
to the unfortunate treaty of Brest-Litovsk dictated by 
the regime of the Kaiser. But the other side, those 
who are now putting their feet on a defeated nation’s 
neck, should not forget that a certain kind of victory 
may imply defeat in the future.” 

These words, spoken in 1918, to-day sound almost 
hke a prophecy. ... 

114 



Days of Revolution 

When yon are active in public life during a revolu¬ 
tion, it is inevitable that you create enemies. Some 
people suspect your intentions because, arguing from 
their own characters, they cannot imagine anybody’s 
acting from a feeling of duty to the common good. I 
received many scurrilous letters, using expressions 
such as ‘'sow”, “ filthy hag ”, etc. Some of these 
letters contained threats of murder. Naturally there 
were also letters from unknown friends expressing 
their appreciation. I did not pay any attention to 
threats ; the letters immediately were thrown into 
the wastepaper basket. But others seemed to take 
the threats more seriously. One day I was summoned 
to appear before the representative of the French 
military authority in the neutral zone, the Marquis 
de X. 

“ Do you know that your life is threatened ? ” he 
asked me. 

" I do not think so, monsieur,” I replied, although 
I had already received some threatening letters. 
“ Those who plan murder usually don’t announce it” 

" I would not be too confident,” he went on. “ Our 
service has information that makes us consider the 
threats more seriously. Are you armed ? ” 

“No, monsieur, I have never had a gun in my 
hands and I would not know how to handle one.” 

“ Here is a small revolver. Take it and I shall 
show you how to handle it.” 

I accepted the weapon and received from this 
French officer my first lesson in marksmanship. It 
was not to be the only time in my life when I was 
threatened with death. 

Towards the end of 1918 my party decided to pub- 

115 



Toni Sender 

lish a daily newspaper for our district and to make 
me the editor. They asked me to give up my position 
in the metal concern and to accept the new job. I 
was reluctant, for I had no experience in editorial 
work. I had never done any before. They certainly 
could find somebody who was better qualified than 
I. Besides that, I did not want to give up my position 
in business. I had achieved recognition, was receiving 
a high salary, and had a promising future before me. 
I had worked for years to obtain recognition of a 
woman’s ability to assume such responsibilities, had 
gone through many painful experiences in order to 
obtain equal rights and equal opportunities for a 
woman. 

And there is another, perhaps a more serious, 
reason,” I went on. “I have always loved to work 
for the movement, but have done it as an honorary 
job without receiving any salary for it. That has 
given me great independence, which I would hate 
to surrender. Of course this situation means a double 
job—one professional during the daytime, and another, 
voluntary, at night. But I prefer this double burden 
for the sake of my liberty. I do not want to receive 
any money for my activity in the movement.” 

“ That sounds very unselfish and proud, but don’t 
you see that it is actually quite egoistic ? ” Robert 
asked me. Do you think I am less proud and inde¬ 
pendent than you because I devote my entire time 
and strength to the movement and receive a modest 
salary for it? ” 

This impressed me as somewhat justified. I asked 
for three days to think the matter through. When, 
after this period, they continued to urge me to accept 

ii6 



Days of Revolution 

the job with a small salary (not half of what I received 
at the metal firm), I accepted. When I went to my 
employer to tell him the news, he was surprised and 
tried to dissuade me. Unsuccessful, he invited me to 
his home to discuss the matter more fully, I would 
not find the satisfaction I expected, he suggested. 
And I certainly would not receive any gratitude for 
the sacrifice I was going to make. I should listen 
to the advice of an older, more experienced man, one 
who had no other motive but my interest, he argued. 

I have considered that many times, Mr. S./’ I 
replied, and am very grateful for your kindness, I 
know I can expect no gratitude for what I shall do. 
The only reward will be in the feeling of having 
done my duty. But I think that in these days, where 
labour is confronted with so many new tasks, we just 
have to help, be it in our personal interest or not.’' 

A last attempt was made by my employer when he 
sent to me Professor A., a scientific consultant of the 
firm who knew me well firom our business relation¬ 
ship and who always had shown genuine interest in 
my career. He told me of the experience of his 
brother-in-law, who had been a secretary of the 
Bavarian government and had, in spite of his strong 
idealism, been gradually disillusioned. 

“ I have no illusions. I am prepared for ingratitude. 
I think I have to go my way,” I replied. 

So I parted, not without regret, from men who had 
shown me friendship and recognition, to begin a 
career which was accompanied by many hardships 
but which did not lack the leaven of true comradeship. 
My introduction to the Volksrechty our new daily 
paper, was a rather cruel one. Only one day of 

117 I 



Toni Sender 

apprenticeship was afforded me. I went to Halle, 
where I had a good friend, an editor of a daily. 
During a few hours’ talk he gave me a rapid course 
in the technique of tire profession. And then I 
started. The office I was given looked very inaus¬ 
picious. It was not very clean and was furnished 
only with a rudimentary table and chair, a glue-pot, 
and scissors. Was that all they offered me? No, 
there was something more for which I was not too 
well prepared. No sooner had I begun to work than 
I was afflicted with bites. Looking for the cause, I 
discovered that the place swarmed with fleas ! But 
there was no choice—the paper had to be ready and 
I had to do my work. By evening my whole body 
looked tattooed. I found out that until the evening 
before the place had been used by soldiers returning 
from the front. They carried the insects and seemed 
to be immune to them. I certainly would never 
have returned to the place if I had had my way. 

I assume that few of my newspaper colleagues 
abroad have had to go through such experiences as I 
did at the outset of my journalistic career. Appointed 
chief editor, I found that my duties were manifold. 
There were two of us to do all the editorial work for 
a daily afternoon paper that had to compete with 
others of long standing. And we did it successfully. 
My field was home and foreign affairs, labour, litera¬ 
ture, the arts. We had very few contributors because 
we could not pay them. My colleague handled local 
and district matters. The only way to get the paper 
ready in time was to start in the early morning hours. 
That was necessary also because in the beginning the 
printing plant lacked modern equipment. To get the 

ii8 



Days of Revolution 

paper out, I had to begin work at three-thirty or 
four in the morning, to a large extent writing most 
of the paper myself 

I had to write all the editorials and the news leaders, 
taking a stand on all important problems. In many 
cases we were the first to tackle the discussion of new 
problems. Of course, that required a tremendous 
amount of concentration , and strict self-discipline. 
When, later, important discussions started in the 
Constituent Assembly in Weimar, I asked a friend, a 
member of the assembly, to give me a report every 
night by telephone. These reports came late in the 
night because, as in the rest of the world, rates were 
then cheaper. It was all our paper could afford. 
The only way one person alone could handle it was 
to remain in the office throughout the night. At first 
I arranged a bed out of newspapers, but my associates 
recognized that that was too uncomfortable, and I 
was offered a couch. 

My working day during this period was between 
nineteen and twenty hours. The executive of the 
Workers’ Council required my services almost daily, 
and the evenings were taken up by lectures and meet¬ 
ings. I nevertheless found time to write a series of 
articles on the fundamentals of ^*Wage, Price, and 
Currency ”, which were published in a booklet and 
much discussed. Shortly after that a young student 
came to see me at the newspaper office. 

I come in the name of Professor G. of the Univer¬ 
sity of Frankfurt. We plan to discuss your pamphlet 
in his seminar, and the professor invites you to attend 
the discussion.” 

I should love to do so,” I replied, especially 

119 



Toni Sender 

because I know Professor G. is a conservative, but my 
day has only twenty-four hours and twenty of them 
are already taken by work. So I am sorry I have to 
resist the temptation.” 

And the temptation was great indeed ; first of all 
because I love an intellectual fight, and still more 
because I should have liked to discuss timely economic 
problems with young people who had not yet found 
their places in the new order. However, once you 
are in public life you can no longer do all the things 
you like. Other and sometimes very unpleasant 
obligations approach you. 

One day as I was working on current problems at 
the executive of the Workers’ Council, a telephone call 
came from a friend at poHce headquarters. 

“ In the old part of the city a mob is starting to loot 
shops and police stations,” he said. “ Aren’t there a 
few comrades who could rush immediately to the 
scene of the riot and try to prevent the people from 
continuing their plundering ? The police chief wants 
to avoid bloodshed, if possible, but it can be done 
only with your help.” 

Robert Dissmann and I declared ourselves ready 
to make an effort. Before we could leave the 
Workers’ Council building, another message came 
telHng us that a crowd of rioters had gone to the 
court-house to set it on fire. Hastily we agreed that 
Robert should go to the court-house while I went to 
the old city. 

I rushed towards the river—and my guess was right. 
As in all very old cities, there were slums, and some 
slum dwellers were not responsive to the new Germany. 
Among them were many honest people, real workers 

120 



Days of Revolution 

and trade unionists. But in those narrow, winding 
alleys other elements too found refuge. 

Crowds were massed before a police station at the 
quay of the Main. Reams of files had been throwm 
from the windows. The station had been set on fire. 
Among the crowd a few men' recognized me. Quickly 
I explained my task and asked them to lift me on 
their shoulders so that I could address the crowd. 
They did as I asked and I started to speak, warning 
the decent people among the crowd not to tolerate 
acts which could please only enemies of the revolu¬ 
tion. The workers would be held responsible. It 
was very suspicious, I shouted, that some elements 
should instigate an act that could only soil the cause 
of the masses. I could not go on. Some, in the crowd 
tried to support me, which was only the signal for the 
instigators of the looting and arson to shout : 

“ Into the river with her. Let her follow the 
sailor.” 

Someone approached me. 

For God’s sake, stop or you will be lost. Only 
ten minutes ago they drowned a sailor, sent by the 
police commissioner, who tried to quiet the crowd just 
as you are doing. Don’t you see you cannot reason 
with this mob ? ” 

And with all his energy he pulled me away. I 
probably owe him my life but have never knowm even 
his name. 

The experience made me apprehensive for Robert’s 
safety. I rushed to the court-house. A huge crowd 
had gathered around it. From the windows of the 
building men were throwing the court’s files on a big 
heap in the street. From time to time there was the 

I2I 



Toni Sender 

crack of an explosion. Ringleaders had put grenades 
on the heap and these were exploding. 

'' Where is Robert^ has anybody seen him ? I 
asked in anxiety. 

He is in the building trying to stop the looters.’’ 

I tried to get into the court-house. The police 
implored me to desist. 

'' Then try to find Robert Dissmann. He may be 
in danger.” 

They promised and finally came out with Robert, 
who was exhausted but who had succeeded in quench¬ 
ing the fire that the plunderers had started to set in 
the building. 

We barely had time to exchange our experiences 
when a new message reached us. 

The mob is starting to loot the shops in the centre 
of the city. Do go and stop them.” 

This time we asked police assistance For hours we 
followed the route of the rioters. Late in the evening 
all was over—without further loss of life. We could 
be proud of the achievement of the Workers’ Council 
and the police of Frankfurt. 

Soon afterwards it came out that some special inter¬ 
ests must have been behind the plunderers. Particu¬ 
lar sets of files had been destroyed in the court-house 
and in some police stations, files proving usurious 
trade and frauds by war and blockade profiteers. 
They had aroused the mob for their own purposes— 
and an honest sailor had lost his life. General blood¬ 
shed had been avoided by a hair’s breadth. 


122 



VI 


COUNTER-REVOLT: THE KAPP PUTSCH 

What we thought would become the social revolu¬ 
tion did not develop in the direction or with the 
speed planned by those of us who had sat together 
on the night of November S-g. The result of the 
elections to the Constituent Assembly gave a majority 
to those parties opposed to a fundamental social 
change. Our apprehensions when we resisted a pre¬ 
cipitate convocation of that assembly were completely 
justified. The masses of the people could not find 
their orientation during such a short period. Especi¬ 
ally backward were the millions of soldiers. Even 
those at home had been prevented by a thorough 
censorship from learning what was going on in the 
country. Was it intentional that those who hastened 
elections did not give us a chance to enlighten the 
people ? While the Independent Socialists won only 
twenty-two seats in the elections of January, 1919, 
to the Constituent Assembly, on March 2 of the 
same year the result of the municipal elections in 
Prussia confirmed the expectation that time would 
work for us. 

In the- city of Frankfurt the Independent Socialists 
elected eight members out of ninety to the City 
Council. I was one of them, the only woman of my 

123 



Toni Sender 

party. With the exception of Heinrich Huttmann, 
we were all newcomers. But never before or since 
have I met a group in which collaboration was more 
genuine or comradeship more sincere. Most of us 
were active political leaders with many other respon¬ 
sibilities. The municipalities in the new state had 
many new tasks—especially Frankfurt, because of its 
location in the “ neutral ” zone under partial control 
of the French. We knew we would be under severe 
scrutiny as a new group and also that our followers 
expected much more from us than from the average 
councilman. I, more than the others, had to meet 
and vanquish prejudice. 

“ What can this firebrand accomplish in a City 
Council ? ” my opponents said. 

They were afraid of me during the period of the 
revolution and expected only incendiary words. I 
knew it and was conscious of the fact that I had to 
show them that to be a revolutionary in the true 
sense of the word implies also the faculty of working 
constructively and the ability to co-operate. My 
party assigned to me the task of serving on the Com¬ 
mittee for Social Problems and on the Board of 
Education. The Council met once a week and the 
committees sometimes more frequently. Every one 
of us had to study all the matters on the agenda, the 
proposals and decrees, before our group met. Rapidly 
we divided the tasks. My fellow SociaHsts were 
greatly surprised when I told them, at our first group 
meeting, that one of the men would have to deal 
with matters concerning household problems. I 
would not do it, for every one of my opponents was 
prepared to scoff at me, knowing that I was not 

124 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

managing a household myself. I would not expose 
my weak spots. My fnends laughed and agreed. 
In return I offered to take on part of the debates 
and discussions in the full sessions—a job in which 
I had acquired special skill through my experience 
in the wartime meetings and at the sessions with the 
old gentlemen of the Board of Aldermen. 

What made the work in the City Council so 
pleasant and enjoyable was arousing the interest of 
the masses in city affairs and being supported by 
pubhc opinion. The galleries, always empty in the 
old times, were now crowded. The public kept close 
contact with our work. It gave us a strong incentive 
and lent vigour to our speeches as well as to our work. 
The City Council during this period was an interest¬ 
ing scene for the citizens. And it must be so if we 
want democracy to be a \drile regime. Many years 
later, after Robert and I had left Frankfurt, I met a 
former City Council colleague of the People’s party 
(big business party). “ How we regret that you and 
Dissmann have left us !” he said to me. Although 
we did not agree, there was hfe in the City Council 
when you were active there ! ” 

Our work in the plenary meetings was sometimes 
spectacular, but that on the committees was not. 
However, we did create important institutions that 
lasted until the dictator came and destroyed munici¬ 
pal self-government. I took special pride in the 
achievement of one difficult task : the munftipaliza- 
tion of all welfare institutions, institutions which cared 
for human beings in need from the cradle to the 
grave. Our idea was to give persons who were in 
need through no fault of their own the right to 

125 



Toni Sender 

community support and not to force them to the 
humiliation of begging for charity. It was a tre¬ 
mendous task in a time of economic and financial 
difficulties for all municipalities and could be carried 
through only with the broad understanding that the 
deputy mayor of the city showed—the same man to 
whom I had to show the door at our first Workers’ 
Council meeting ! He did not bear a grudge because 
of that incident, for he realized that useful work 
could be done by collaboration. The burial of the 
dead, among other things, became municipalized. 
It was handled without profit and with delicate tact. 
Class differences vanished, at least at the gate of the 
cemetery. 

Not less interesting was the influence of the new 
forces in the school system. With the help of a few 
very liberal-minded teachers Frankfurt was among 
the first cities to create modern municipal school 
systems immediately after the war. When I came 
to these schools and attended classes to see how our 
ideas worked in practice, I envied the pupils who 
were being given such a cheerful childhood while 
their learning in no way suffered. Not only those 
who entered school as little children enjoyed the care 
of the new state, but also those who had prematurely 
left school and gone into shops and offices. For 
eight hours a week, during the daytime, their 
employers had to permit them to attend continua¬ 
tion classes which we made compulsory for all 
apprentices. Here, too, something new had to be 
built up. 

A rather delicate though highly necessary task was 
the hiring of new teachers for schools and Gymnasien 

126 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch ■ 

(corresppnding to elementary and secondary schools 
in Great Britain). It was urgent that we liberal¬ 
ize the staffs. The republic had set itself the task 
of bringing up the youth in the spirit of love for 
peace and freedom. Many of the old teachers be¬ 
longed to the class of supernationalists. As many 
of them as possible had to be replaced. But 
caution had to be practised. Not infrequently we 
encountered those who had put red ribbons in their 
buttonholes through no deep conwction. On the 
other hand, where we met teachers with genuinely 
democratic political convictions but insufficient scholar¬ 
ship, we refused to reduce the standards we had set 
for our new school system. It often entailed a hard 
fight with the representatives of the parties of the 
right to effect the engagement of progressive teachers 
and professors, and it became harder with every year 
that we became further removed from the November 
revolution. 

My memor}^ of the City Council work, neverthe¬ 
less, is a friendly one, because we met one another 
with respect, our discussions were on a high level, 
and we accomplished constructive tasks. Fortun¬ 
ately, I did not experience Nazi councilmen—their 
presence later changed the entire atmosphere. 

Shortly after my election I had an experience, as 
a party leader and newspaper editor, which almost 
brought us to a terrible catastrophe. One afternoon 
I was alone in the newspaper office. A tali, rather 
tMn woman, apparently pregnant, appeared at the 
newspaper office and asked for me. I received her 
and listened to what she had to say. 

I am a German White Guard officer’s wife, but 
127 



Toni Sender 

am myself heart and soul with the revolution— 
reason enough for my husband to persecute me. I 
had to escape from the coast, where he lives. I am 
expecting my baby next week and must go as fast 
as possible to Augsburg (Bavaria), where I have a 
good friend in Comrade T., who certainly will help 
me. But in order to be able to travel further with¬ 
out danger I need a passport in some name other 
than my own. I know you have enough influence 
with the police commissioner to be able to have such 
a passport delivered to me. The White Guards are 
on my heels and everything has to be done with the 
greatest speed. Do feel with me as a woman, help 
me. Here, see my credentials.’’ 

And she gave me a number of letters from known 
comrades in different cities on the coast. Would it 
not be a simple act of humanity to help this seem¬ 
ingly unhappy woman and give her a chance to give 
birth to her baby in the calm of the Bavarian moun¬ 
tains ? The credentials she had presented seemed to 
be perfect. Why then did an inner voice warn me 
to be careful ? The woman made an unpleasant 
impression upon me. Slight doubts of her pregnancy 
arose in my mind. I answered her : 

I do not know whether I can assist you. I must 
talk the matter over with my friends. Can I help 
you to stay somewhere during the night ? ” 

No, thank you, I have already found friendly 
people, friends of yours, who have given me hos¬ 
pitality.” 

She gave me the name of her hosts, very poor, 
honest comrades. 

After she had left me I was very restless. My 
128 



Comter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

doubts became stronger and stronger. She looked 
almost like a man—was she really pregnant ? Some¬ 
thing about her seemed to grate on me. But all her 
papers and credentials were genuine ! I pondered 
over this for a great part of the night. I never was 
pitiless tow^ard human beings in trouble. Should I 
urge the police commissioner to help her ? He 
probably would do it upon my request. But why 
this inner doubt ? If something were wTong about 
this person, I w^ould be jeopardizing our entire 
position in the police organization, compromising 
the Workers’ Council, and possibly giving the counter¬ 
revolution an eagerly awaited pretext for bloodshed. 
It had happened elsewhere ! 

To issue a false passport and then to be denounced 
by a spy—that would mean the intervention of the 
federal authorities in our police affairs. This inter¬ 
vention might serve as a pretext to arouse the masses 
and provoke them to an uprising. I felt that the 
entire responsibility lay on me. Finally I made up 
my mind. I had two alternatives—to refuse help 
to a woman in need and expose one individual to 
more hardship ; and to hazard the revolution’s 
important influence in the police department. I 
decided that for the moment I had to sacrifice the 
individual and guard the collective interest. After 
the decision was made I was calm and firm. 

I informed the person in charge at the newspaper 
office not to bring the woman to my room but to tell 
her that I was sorry I was unable to help her. At 
the same time I warned my friends at police head¬ 
quarters and told them of my decision. The personnel 
at the newspaper were furious. They thought me 

129 



Toni Sender 

cruel and heartless and gave the “ pregnant ’’ woman 
all the hospitality she wanted. 

Many months later, after I had become a member 
of the Reichstag, I was shocked to learn the true 
identity of the woman who had so mysteriously 
solicited my assistance in Frankfurt. Her name came 
out during proceedings of our Reichstag group against 
a member involved in the intrigues of a monarchist 
spy. My caller proved to be none other than the 
infamous spy and agent-provocateur, Frau Schrbder- 
Mahnke, who was responsible for many riots and 
shootings and for the killing of many workers in the 
uprisings she had provoked. She was neither preg¬ 
nant nor persecuted by the White Guards. On the 
contrary, she was in their service and had provoked 
the massacre of workers in Kiel. Later, disguised 
as a man, she was brought into the cells of jailed 
revolutionaries to win their confidence and make 
them confess. She would then appear in the courts 
as a witness against her former prison-mates. Then 
only did I learn what a terrible danger we had 
escaped, thanks to my distrust and the strong instinct 
that had warned me. 

The dissatisfaction of great masses of workers with 
the trend of political developments was demonstrated 
to the delegates of the first post-war convention of 
the Independent Socialist party in March, 1919. 
While we delegates were gathering in Berlin, a general 
strike was declared by the restive workers of the city. 
Delegates entering the former Herrenhaus, where 
the convention took place, had to pass streets where 
machine-guns were firing * and the shooting con¬ 
tinued during all the days of our deliberations. It 

130 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

was a political strike. The workers saw in it the only 
means of expressing first their demand for more 
decisive revolutionary measures and specifically their 
opposition to the formation of military organizations 
under the leadership of officers of the old German 
army. The central government obviously was im¬ 
pressed by this action, and while the strike and the 
shooting were still going on, we saw huge posters 
appear on the walls of the city with the promise of the 
government (in which we Independent Social Demo¬ 
crats were no longer represented) '' Socialization is 
on the march 'k It always remained on the march 
and never arrived at the goal. 

But a genuine revolutionary spirit was reflected in 
the discussions of the convention. I took a leading 
part in them. Actually it was my official entry upon 
the national scene of German politics. 

Our representatives in the Government of the 
People’s Commissars should not have given their 
consent to the speedy convocation of the Constituent 
Assembly,” I declared. You answer my criticism 
with the argument that the assembly was forced to 
convene so quickly because during our whole past 
history we always had demanded democracy and a 
free ■ suffrage. That is true. But we were experi¬ 
encing a revolution which created a new law and 
required a new attitude. It W'as most regrettable 
that there was no co-ordination between the work 
of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils in the different 
parts of. the country and that of the assembly. 

The revolution had the task of establishing solid 
bases for the young republic by dethroning those 
powers of the past which' through their economic 

131 



Toni Sender 

strength held the political power—the barons of the 
heavy industries and the Junkers of the big agrarian 
estates. However, every day while fighting for this 
goal, we heard, ^ You cannot socialize now because 
our entire economic machinery is in a desperate 
condition.’ But do you really want to wait until 
the powers of the past have so well recovered as to 
become influential again ? The German people are 
not by nature very revolutionary—once the revolu¬ 
tionary movement had been started, why did we not 
immediately seize this opportunity to bring nearer 
the goal of genuine political and economic liberty ? ” 

The speech brought a strong echo inside and 
outside the convention. There was still revolution¬ 
ary spirit alive—but would it be strong enough to 
alter a situation that appeared more and more to 
be developing towards a middle-class republic ? In 
the streets shooting was going on. A state of siege 
was declared. Troops appeared, the lights went out, 
the strike spread. But much of the energy was 
wasted—so many lives sacrificed in vain because the 
efforts were restricted to a few centres and other 
parts of the country did not follow suit. Also, the 
strike movement lacked co-ordination and clarity in 
its aims. 

Of course, it must be admitted that the republic’s 
relations with the victorious nations did much to 
hamper the boldness of the workers’ responsible 
leaders. The peace negotiations in Versailles made 
it clear that the Allied powers would not take any 
notice of the fundamental changes brought about 
in Germany, although during the war they had 
appealed to the German people to change their 

132 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

government as a condition of fair treatment for a 
new Germany. 

It was in the early morning hours of June 17, 19195 
as I was alone in my editorial office in Frankfurt that 
the text of the peace treaty as dictated by the Allies 
reached me. My heart skipped beats as I read it. 
Is it possible—such a blow, such a humiliation to the 
young republic ? Had they forgotten all their prom¬ 
ises—or had they fooled us ? On top of all the 
heavy financial and material burdens and the cession 
of territory was the degradation of the German 
people by refusal to permit Germany to enter the 
League of Nations ! 

What should we do ? I knew our readers would 
expect me to take an immediate stand, to express a 
clear opinion. I had never felt a heavier responsi¬ 
bility. There was no one to consult but my own 
conscience. What was the alternative of not sign¬ 
ing ? Impossible to call the people of Germany to 
arms for new resistance ! The German people defin¬ 
itely wanted peace, were exhausted. Not to sign 
would mean occupation of the most important 
territories containing raw materials, intensification of 
the blockade, unemployment, hunger, the death of 
thousands, holding back of our war prisoners—a 
catastrophe which finally would force us to sign still 
more humiliating conditions. Of course I was also 
aware of the dangers of accepting the dictated treaty 
even under protest. It would incite nationalist 
passions, burden the republic with unbearable con¬ 
ditions, and raise a threat of counter-revolution. 
Weighing all consequences, I finally decided to 
advocate signing. 


133 


K 



Toni Sender 

One factor contributed to this decision. In the same 
month of June a separatist movement had been started 
in the occupied Rhineland zone under the leadership 
of Dr. Hans Dorten and had been furthered, if not 
entirely instigated, by the French military authorities. 
Could we risk a step that might develop into the dis¬ 
memberment of the country ? So I came out for sign¬ 
ing the treaty, aware of all the risks it involved, but 
hoping that the peoples of the victorious nations 
might soon become sober and recognize that these 
terrible mistakes had to be repaired as quickly as pos¬ 
sible in the interest of their own countries, of the 
young German republic, and of world peace. Alas— 
everybody knows now that this was an illusion. The 
crime of Versailles had to be paid for by a frightful 
price. . . . 

How many times during these months had I not 
asked myself the question, has the November revolu¬ 
tion been too humane ? Will not this spirit of 
humanity be poorly rewarded by those who can see in a 
pohtical opponent only the enemy, in a new social 
order only a menace to their privileges ? The long 
military tradition of a nation leaves deep roots and 
cannot be destroyed in a short time. It was demon¬ 
strated to us in the most ruthless way that we had to 
deal with brutally cruel enemies. As early as January 
15? 19193 the horrible news had reached us of the 
cowardly murder of two noble idealists, Rosa Luxem¬ 
burg and Karl Liebknecht, our dear comrades who 
had been seized by army officers and, defenceless 
prisoners, had been killed. The reactionary army 
officers—gentlemen in manners but thugs at heart— 
were too cowardly to answer for their ‘ crime, and 

134 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

escaped abroad. Probably encouraged by this un¬ 
punished act of brutality, another soon followed. On 
February 21 our friend Kurt Eisner, head of the 
Bavarian revolutionary government, the poet and 
dreamer, the man who had stood unflinchingly for 
democracy, was fatally shot in the streets of Munich by 
the young Count Arco-Valley, another representative 
of the philosophy of violence. 

The leaders of our movement knew that many of 
them were threatened by the same fate. But none of 
them would demand protection. Certainly Hugo 
Haase, our honest, fearless party president, was among 
those most hated because he had the courage of his 
convictions. The agitation against Haase in re¬ 
actionary circles was extremely vicious and was 
responsible for the senseless act of a weak-minded man 
in October, 1919. On his way to the National 
Assembly, Haase was shot; after a period of great 
suffering, he died. The German labour movement 
lost in h im one of its best minds, a personality with rare 
qualities of character, who could find satisfaction only 
in his devotion to the common good. Haase was wise 
and poised in deliberations, firm and courageous in his 
acts. We were deeply afflicted and the German 
people felt the sad loss. His life was another tribute the 
Left paid to the reaction—and it was not to be the 
last. 

Completely new tasks require new instruments. 
We understood that a change in the social order had 
to be achieved by increasing the responsibility of 
those who wanted to help build up this new society. 
Of course, there cannot be permanent revolution in 
the sense of permanent fighting and interruption of 

135 



Toni Sender 

economic production. However, labour was com¬ 
mitted to a change in its social position and functions. 
Labour representatives in the shops and oflSces had not 
only to improve working conditions and wages, but 
also to be responsible for continuity of production in 
the factories. We in the Independent Socialist party 
were aware of the necessity of giving these represent¬ 
atives the legal right to become the deputies of the 
structural change that was promised by the govern¬ 
ment in those bloody days of March, 1919. 

The government had promised the labour move¬ 
ment a law which would make the shop councils the 
basic instruments of socialization. It seemed to us an 
effective way to prevent state bureaucracies from 
developing in those industries. The National Assembly 
had had elaborate and heated debates on the bill pre¬ 
sented by the government. When it came before the 
house for a final vote, it seemed to the workers that 
the promises given them had not been kept. The 
Berlin trade unions, therefore, called the workers to 
demonstrate before the assembly when the final dis¬ 
cussion began on January 13, 1920. Tens of thousands 
left their shops and paraded in front of the Reichstag 
building. At a given moment some tried to enter the 
building. Immediately the machine-guns of the army 
detachment which was guarding the building let 
loose. Many dead and seriously wounded workers fell 
to the pavement. The profound indignation of the 
workers of our party reached deep into the ranks of 
the Majority Socialists as well. 

We in Frankfurt, before the bloody events in Berlin, 
had decided on a similar demonstration. The shooting 
before the Reichstag building made a protest the 

136 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

more imperative. By that time I had a heavier 
responsibility to carry. Robert Dissmann had been 
elected president of the Metal Workers Unionj and 
he had been compelled to leave Frankfurt. We had 
called the workers of Frankfurt for the afternoon of 
January 15, 192O5 to the biggest meeting-hall of the 
city to protest against the bloodshed and to put forth 
labour’s demands for the shop councils bill. Two hours 
before the meeting was to begin the police commis¬ 
sioner telephoned to me that the meeting would not 
be permitted. 

“ Impossible to call the meeting off at such a short 
notice, Herr Polizeiprasident,” I said. '' By now the 
workers have quit work and they must be marching 
towards the meeting-place. It is in the interest of 
peace and order to let it take place. We guarantee 
an orderly course.” 

I’m sorry,” came his reply. '' The meeting is not 
to take place.” 

^ I rushed to the meeting hall, the Schumann Theatre, 
a place almost as large as New T ork’s Madison Square 
^ Garden. Scarcely had I arrived when the first men 
from the factories marched up. They came by entire 
shops, thousands, tens of thousands. But it was 
impossible to approach the hall. It was occupied by 
soldiers and police. In front of it machine-guns and 
barbed wire were set up as if the city were in a state 
of war. Huge posters warned, Halt ! Anyone who 
marches further will be shot.” It was provocative to 
the highest degree. A huge number of workers massed 
in front of the bayonets. I realized that the minutes 
of peace might not last long. I understood the awful 
possibilities and was determined to do everything to 

137 



Toni Sender 

prevent a repetition of the Berlin shooting. But there 
was no chance to address the masses in order to tell 
them to return home. The police and soldiers would 
have acted immediately. I had to make up my mind, 
and I did it quickly. Marching along the long line of 
workers standing impatiently and nervously in front 
of the soldiers and the barbed wire, I whispered to 
those near me, Follow me—don’t ask where.” 

And the huge mass of people marched, following 
me. I led them, after a quarter of an hour, to a large 
square around a big monument to Bismarck. Quickly 
I climbed to the top of the monument and addressed 
them. I explained in a few words the meaning of our 
demonstration, expressed our protest, and asked the 
people to disband and go home in order not to furnish 
any pretext for shooting. While I was pronouncing 
the last words, I heard the trucks with the soldiers 
approaching. They were furious that we had fooled 
them. They did not realize that my action was the 
only way to avoid bloodshed. They looked for me. I 
stayed at the square, mingling with the crowd, but 
they could not find me. Without any justification they 
fired on us—three dead and many wounded were the 
result. 

That night I did not go home. I knew they would 
come to arrest me. But the early morning hours found 
me in the newspaper office. After a few hours of work 
I happened to move to the window and was surprised 
to see a crowd in the courtyard in front of our build¬ 
ing. I asked one of the employees to inquire about it. 
After a few minutes he came back and said : 

The police are looking for you. Detectives are in 
the manager’s office. He is telephoning for you, pre- 

138 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

tending you are not here. Two detectives are posted 
at the entrance to the manager’s office. You cannot 
leave without being seen.” 

Wellj I think I must leave, anyway,” I replied. 

“ Please go back to the printing' plant and ask one of 
the girls there to lend me her bonnet and dress.” 

Soon he came back with the garments. I quickly 
donned them, walked through the corridor, passing 
the two detectives with a friendly Good morning,” 
and entered the printing plant behind the newspaper 
offices. From there I climbed down to the central 
heating room in the basement. The manager was 
informed and kept in contact with me. 

Escape once more ! Of course I had to remain 
hidden, but not necessarily in the central heating room, 
which I could leave at night. Many friends offered 
me asylum. I changed it every day. Only the 
manager and a messenger boy knew where I was. I 
went on editing the paper while the police were looking 
for me. After almost a week I was tired of the under¬ 
ground life. Sanitary conditions during such a g>"psy 
existence are not of the best. When the day of the 
City Council meeting came, I decided to attend. 
Naturally, the entire city knew that the police wanted 
to arrest me, and there was great surprise among my 
colleagues in the council when I appeared. They 
asked me for an explanation of the events, which I 
gave them. There was unanimous recognition of the 
prudence of my behaviour during the demonstration. 
But the speaker explained that City Council members 
did not enjoy the privilege of parliamentary immunity, 
and that he therefore could not protect me. However, 
should the police enter the room, he would help me to 

^39 



Toni Sender 

get out of the predicament. The police indeed came, 
and I vanished. But the speaker kept his promise. 
He intervened with the police and obtained a pledge 
that they would not bother me any longer. 

Normal life was not to last very long for me. The 
counter-revolutionary trends became stronger, and 
anyone with his ear to the ground could perceive 
them. Only the republican Minister of Defence, 
Gustav Noske, seemed not to have the slightest notion 
of it. And yet it was in his surroundings that the coup 
was brewing. 

In the early morning of March 13, 1920, I was at my 
newspaper desk as usual. As early as six o’clock the 
telephone bell rang. 

This is the Volksstimme [the Majority Socialist 
newspaper]. We have just received news from Berlin 
that army officers have revolted there. They have 
marched into the capital and established a counter¬ 
revolutionary government. We must act as quickly as 
possible.” 

“ Thank you for your call. I will get in touch with 
my party executives immediately. Together we must 
call a general strike. Let us meet within two hours.” 

I mobilized my comrades. Two hours later orders 
were given to all workers in the city’s factories to 
cease work. We called them to a huge meeting. They 
came as one man. Although the Independent Social¬ 
ists had not supported the existing government, 
headed by Bauer, a Majority Socialist, we did not 
hesitate a moment to declare a general strike against the 
army clique that had instigated what later became 
known as the Kapp Putsch. But we declared to the 
editors of the Volksstimme and the Majority Socialists in 

140 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

Frankfurt that the revolution must now. proceed to 
accomplish its full work—end the counter-revolution 
for ever. The Majority Socialist leaders promised they 
would do this, and personally they probably meant it. 

Meanwhile, the people had become vtiy excited. 
Headquarters were again established in the Frankfurter 
Hof. A revolutionary committee, of which I became 
a member, was formed. Soon clashes occurred 
between the masses and the police. After a few hours 
we mourned fourteen dead and more than a hundred 
wounded. A mass of workers attempted to storm the 
military barracks—but were repulsed. Machine-guns 
appeared in the streets, grenades were thrown. Mean¬ 
while, we had called all city employees on strike, and 
they had responded. Telegraph and telephone centres 
were occupied by the workers. What would be the 
attitude of the army detachments of our district? 
We soon knew. Troops marched into the city. 
Cannon were pointed at the police headquarters, the 
Reichsbank, the city’s main railroad station, and most 
of the public buildings. The generals were asked to 
whom they gave allegiance, to the legitimate govern¬ 
ment of Bauer—or to the Putsch cabinet of Kapp. 
They avoided a definite answer. 

To my mind the cannon in the city were a very clear 
reply. I. had left the Frankfurter Hof for a moment 
and had gone to meet some friends at the Volksrecht 
office. While we were debating, a messenger arrived, 
breathless, from the Majority Socialists. 

You must vanish immediately, Toni Sender. I am 
sent by the Majority Socialists to tell you that the 
army rebels are on their way to arrest you. I am 
ordered to warn you not to stay here a moment longer.’’ 

141 



Toni Sender 

My friends insisted I must immediately go into 
hiding. It was too late to leave the building by the 
front door. Passage through the printing plant and 
into the central heating plant was impossible—nobody 
had the keys. 

You must climb down the back wall. We shall 
help you/’ someone suggested. I agreed. We were 
on the second floor, I reached the back court safely 
and then rushed away into hiding. Every two hours I 
had to change my place of concealment. Our news¬ 
paper manager, S. E., helped wonderfully by arranging 
for new hiding-places. I was too well known in the 
city. Anywhere some Kappist might recognize and 
betray me. Despite the strike, the newspapers of the 
republican parties continued to be published. They 
were an important arm in the general strike. So I 
too, had to go on with my newspaper work. We 
published several issues each day to keep our followers 
informed. 

But a moment came when my friends thought it 
was no longer safe for me to stay in Frankfurt. Workers 
who had been arrested by the army and later released 
came to tell us that a lynch atmosphere had been 
created against me in the army, that all the military 
leaders demanded to know my whereabouts. My 
friends had therefore arranged for me to flee to the 
territory occupied by the French. A Frankfurt manu¬ 
facturer offered me his car and chauffeur. I did not 
want to go—but under the pressure of general in¬ 
sistence, I finally gave in. 

Clad as a boy, I sat next to the chauffeur. When he 
reached the French military post, where a Moroccan 
soldier was posted, I talked to him in good French 

142 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

and he let us pass, although we had no permit. I 
stayed with party friends, keeping in close contact with 
the city by telephone, which, fortunately, was in con¬ 
trol of the strikers. After a few hours, I could not 
stand it away from the battlefields, I asked my friends 
to send the car, and take me back. I felt I was needed. 
During all these days I had not undressed, had not 
slept. 

When I returned to Frankfurt, I heard of a sugges¬ 
tion to call off the strike, although the danger from 
the putschists was still strong. In the confusion, the 
strikers had been called to meetings in Gross-Frankfurt, 
a centre of theatres and halls, and then the meetings 
had, at short notice, been called off. I realized that 
the second notice could not have reached all the 
strikers in time. The confusion would be fatal to the 
strike. 

“ Is somebody going to Gross-Frankfurt to inform 
those who may show up ? ” I asked. Nobody was. 

Then I must go to prevent disaster.’’ They tried 
to dissuade me. I resisted. I must take the chance. 
When I arrived in the neighbourhood of Gross-Frank¬ 
furt, throngs of workers were approaching—of course 
they did not know of the cancellation. I was glad 
I had come. Soon such crowds gathered that I 
asked the manager of Gross-Frankfurt to help me. He 
did, and with great courtesy. The largest hall had 
entrances on two sides. 

'' Would you open the corridor doors for those 
going in and keep the street entrance closed until I 
have talked to those gathered in the hall—and then 
open the street entrance to let them out ? ” I asked 
the manager. “If we continue that procedure we 

143 



Toni Sender 

can hold as many brief meetings as necessary to 
inform ail the tens of thousands who are marching 
here.’= 

The method worked. The procedure had to be 
repeated Uvelve times before I had spoken to all those 
who had come. I told them of the latest events and 
promised them that the strike would go on until the 
army had submitted to our control. The workers 
trusted me, and dhdsion within the strike movement 
was warded off. 

Immediately after the meeting I vanished again. 
Naturally I remained in close contact with the strikers 
—but I could not attend the committee meetings. 
The strike had started Saturday morning. The follow¬ 
ing Wednesday the committee decided to end the 
strike on Thursday—a decision taken because the 
army heads had promised to leave the city and with¬ 
draw the troops. But on Wednesday night nothing 
was changed. Cannon were still directed at the banks 
and public buildings. The workers were furious at 
their committee. Some knew how to find me and 
came to ask my advice. 

I cannot issue orders personally, but I fully 
appreciate your feeling and sympathize with it,” I told 
them. You are the strikers, the men who make the 
sacrifices, and you have a right to a voice in this matter. 
If you feel you cannot end the strike, you must have 
an opportunity to express yourselves. I suggest you 
hire a hall. Call a meeting of the strikers’ delegates, 
I am ready to be the chairman of the meeting and 
to ensure its orderly course. But you must do the 
talking, and we can then reach a decision. By 
such a procedure we mil avoid a fight in our ranks 

144 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

and may still be able to reverse the committee’s 
decision.” 

They gratefully agreed. The next morning all 
came to the meeting. I was in the chair. After a few 
hours of discussion we decided to continue the strike 
until the army submitted and actually left the town. 
And the strike went on. . . . Our tactics met with 
success. We forced the soldiers to leave. 

When this was achieved, the strike committee 
called a mass meeting of the strike leaders to take a 
formal decision to end the strike. The workers 
trooped into the hall. A trade-union leader began to 
address them. They would not listen to him. Another 
one attempted to speak—with the same result. Some 
party leaders were no more successful. The meeting 
seemed to be out of control. Almost desperate, the 
chairman asked me if I would try to control it. Of 
course I was ready to try, if they would permit me to 
propose the tactics to be followed. 

I began to speak and somehow succeeded in making 
myself heard and gaining the workers’ attention. 
I urged the strikers to return to the shops the next 
day and there vote shop by shop on whether to end 
the strike. This was unanimously accepted. The 
trade-union leaders were thankful. The vote was 
taken the following day and work was resumed by the 
strikers’ own decision. 

The strike against the Kapp Putsch was the first 
victorious general pohtical strike in history. It was 
a genuine general strike, the people strongly-united, 
industrial and white-collar workers standing together 
with all state and city officials. The police chiefs who 
had haunted me a few weeks before now clasped my 

145 



Toni Sender 

hand in appreciation. It was a demonstration of the 
force those groups could represent if they combined 
for a common goal. United they could accomplish 
great things—without the use of Uolence. Alas, this 
solidarity was not repeated in the subsequent history 
of the German republic. Even during the Kapp 
Putsch, as well as later, the union was more a negative 
than a positive one. Factory and white-collar workers, 
as well as public officials, were all opposed to the 
overthrow of the repubfic by the Kapp Putschists— 
but they disagreed on the form of the economic and 
social structure of the new state. Only the key groups 
of the workers understood that the republic had to 
take power away from the Putschists—the Prussian 
Junkers and the intriguers of the heavy industries, 
and especially the officers’ corps of the army. No 
revolution can succeed without revolutionizing the 
militaiy. In no country was this more imperative than 
in Gemany with its old tradition of the _ army’s 
predominance in civil as well as military affairs. 

For me, the Kapp Putsch had one humorous after- 
math. A few weeks after it was defeated, I was sum¬ 
moned before a judge to answer an indictment for 
assault. At first I did not even understand the mean¬ 
ing of the German technical word for my “ offence.” 
When I was told that I was indicted for having 
physically attacked somebody,, I burst into laughter. 
But the summons was in my hands and I had to go to 
court, ■\^ffien I was brought into the court-room, I 
asked the judge to read me the entire text of the 
accusation. He complied with my request. While he 
was reading, his eyes glanced at me for a moment 
and he smiled.. I understood. It was comic—I am 

146 



Counter-Revolt: The Kapp Putsch 

only 5 feet 2 inches in height and here I was accused of 
having slapped an army officer in the face. The 
assault was alleged to have occurred on the first day of 
the Kapp Putschj in our headquarters at the Frank¬ 
furter Hof. 

'' Of course/’ said the judge, '' I understand that it 
is not this method of attack you usually use.” 

Thank you, your honour. But you will under¬ 
stand that I should appreciate the army’s knowing that 
too. Would you do me the favour of confronting me 
with the officer whom I am supposed to have slapped 
in the face ? I do not want the story going around after 
I am elected to the Reichstag, which I certainly shall 
be Avithin a few weeks. I would then have the privilege 
of parliamentary immunity. And the atmosphere of 
hatred against me in the army would persist. I am 
afraid it would then be impossible to have the matter 
cleared up. The house probably would not be willing 
to lift my immunity.” 

The judge understood and acquiesced. After a few 
hours an officer entered the room. He was very tall, 
a giant almost. The judge’s eyes met mine. We could 
scarcely withhold our laughter. 

I burst out with the question : 

I am Toni Sender ; do you really pretend I 
slapped you ? ” 

The officer was terribly embarrassed. He looked at 
me, his blood mounting to his face. 

No, it was not this lady,” he stammered. 

I asked the judge to grant me the right to have this 
answer pubhshed in the barracks and thus end the 
slander for all time. He agreed. 

I am still convinced that the officer never was 

147 



Toni Sender 

slapped in the face and that the entire story was in¬ 
vented to create a hostile atmosphere against me. The 
indictment coming shortly before my Reichstag elec¬ 
tion, the reactionary officers gambled that the incident 
would never be cleared up. Thus I would have been 
staniped an enemy of the men in uniform. 


148 



VII 


A MEMBER OF THE REICHSTAG IN MY 
TWENTIES 

The elections to the first Reichstag of the German 
republic were strongly influenced by the experience 
of the Kapp Putsch. The masses now began to reahze 
the necessity for more fundamental changes. The 
forces of the past had shown their reactionary, agres- 
sive face and had poorly rewarded the forbearance 
of the November revolution. Not in all parts of the 
nation could the Putsch be defeated without a clash 
of arms. In Westphalia the workers were compelled 
to use violence against the Putschists. Of course they 
were not prepared for it, but they had sufficient 
initiative to beat the Putschists to the army arsenals and 
to seize the arms of their enemy. Military experience 
in the World War together with courage and the 
decision not to be fooled again helped them to triumph 
over professional soldiers. 

When I was asked to go on a lecture tour in Thiir- 
ingen, immediately after the Kapp Putsch, I found 
the working classes in that state still deeply resentful 
of the cruelties committed by the troops and still 
more by the so-called Z^itfreiwillige, young students 
hired by the army and armed by it for the purpose of 
terrorizing the workers and farmers. Most of the cruel 

149 L 




Toni Sender 

murders and barbarous acts were committed by those 
hired mercenaries, and they certainly contributed to 
revolutionizing the masses. The reports I was given 
by eye-witnesses presented a revolting picture indeed. 

Soon after my return from Thiiringen the electoral 
campaign began. Robert Dissmann and I were run¬ 
ning mates for the Reichstag on the ticket of the 
Independent Social Democratic party. Robert mean¬ 
while had already left Frankfurt and moved to Stutt¬ 
gart as president of the Metal Workers Union, an 
industrial union. Robert had for years led the fight 
to vdn this union from its former conservative leader¬ 
ship, and it was his persistence and his remarkable 
talent for organization that decided the battle. He 
understood the necessity of having the political fight 
backed by solidly organized trade unions. Under his 
leadership the Metal Workers Union reached a mem¬ 
bership of a million, the highest membership ever 
attained by any labour union in the world. 

We had a wonderful electoral campaign. With the 
party visibly on the ascent and with issues involving 
steps to complete the work of the revolution, the in¬ 
terest of all classes was aroused to a point where 
our meetings were crowded, inspired, and inspiring. 
The workers began to flock to us. The best types of 
our German intellectuals, those who understood the 
needs of the time, supported us. The signs were 
promising, and we worked in an atmosphere of confi¬ 
dence and genuine friendship. Biebrich, the town 
where my parents lived, was part of my constituency. 
Thus my family had an opportunity to vote for me. 
How^ever, none of them \vas interested in my election 
—they all voted for one or another of my opponents. 

150 



A Member of the Reichstag in My Twenties 

On June 6, -1920, Robert and I became members 
of the Reichstag together -with seventy-nine other 
members of our party. It was a proud victory. From 
the twenty-two members we had in the Constituent 
Assembly at Weimar a little more than a year before, 
we had climbed to eighty-one members of the first 
republican Reichstag. It was a victory' that confirmed 
our attitude early in the revolution as opposed to 
that of the Majority Socialists, namely, not to rush 
the people to the polls before we had had ample 
opportunity to lay the foundation for the new republic 
and to convince the labouring masses and farmers by 
our deeds that their interests lay with the revolution. 

Unfortunately, the Majority Socialists had lost 
more than we had gained. From more than eleven 
million voters in 1919 they had fallen to between five 
and six milli on in 1920 with 112 members elected 
out of a total of 466. The workers who had left them 
and joined us had justly held them responsible for 
the Kapp Putsch, with which the army had surprised 
the Majority Sociahst Defence Minister, Noske, and 
for their failure to fulfil the promise of the revolution. 
The middle-class elements that had flocked to them 
under the immediate influence of the revolution had 
gone back to the nationahst parties, which were also 
among the gainers in the election. 

My party in this election had rendered me a special 
honour : I was put at the head of the national ticket. 
Germany had a system of proportional representation 
requiring 60,000 votes for every member to be elected 
in a constituency. Two neighbouring constituencies 
could make an agreement to combine for the purpose 
of utilizing the remaining votes above the last 60,000. 



Toni Sender 

The total remaining votes went to the national tickets 
put up by the national executives of the parties. The 
objective was to have no votes lost and also to send 
those persons into the Reichstag who were needed 
there for their special knowledge. These included 
persons who in some cases were very able legislators 
without being effective campaigners and speakers. 
On account of a rather intransigent left wing, our 
national executive had met difficulties in setting up 
the national ticket. It so happened that my name 
was the one on which both groups could agree. 
I enjoyed the confidence of both because, although I 
was revolutionary and energetic in defending labour’s 
rights, I also had sufficient practical business sense 
and a long trade union experience which had taught 
me to weigh my decisions. To combine boldness and 
responsibility always had been my endeavour. It was 
quite unusual for a woman, and a young newcomer 
in the Reichstag, to head the national ticket. But it 
helped to make my way in the Reichstag easier and 
resulted in my being charged from the very begin¬ 
ning with important tasks. I was to remain in the 
Reichstag for thirteen years. 

In later years I have often been asked, especially in 
the United States : “ What did you do to be elected 
to the Reichstag ? ” I could only answer, “ Nothing 
at all.” I did not ask for it. It was quite natural 
that Robert and I should be candidates after our years 
of devotion and leadership, and my position was not 
disputed. But the office of deputy never seemed to me 
something highly desirable. The only thing I wanted 
was a chance to do useful work for the community, 
for the masses and the nation. Not that I was without 

152 



A Member of the Reichstag in Mj Twenties 

ambition, but the accent was more on the achieve¬ 
ment than on a position of honour. 

Very soon my comrades in the parliamentary^ group 
charged me, the youngest member of the house, %\’ith 
the task of speaking for the group in the debates on 
foreign affairs. It was July of 1920. The German 
delegates had returned from Spa, where they had 
had a conference with the Alhed nations—the first 
one after the war in which the heads of the German 
government met members of the English and French 
cabinets. The points on the agenda besides the 
question of reparations, which could not y-et be 
settled, were the problems of disarmament and the 
German delivery of coal to the Allies. The task 
assigned to me was to engage in polemics against the 
speakers of the Right. 

tc ^2*^ you very nervous, Toni ? Luise Zietz, mem¬ 
ber of the party executive and of the Reichstag, came 

to ask me. . . i- 

“ Not yet,” I answered. “ I am stili waiting for 

it to come.” 

But the nervousness did not come. Life had already 
hardened me. When I started my attack, I imme¬ 
diately met with strong resistance. There were bitter 
interruptions from the Right. This only stimulated 
me to further attacks. I declared that sabre-rattling 
could only hurt German interests by reinforcing_ the 
impression in the Allied nations that the old spirit of 
Potsdam was not yet dead, that German imperialism 
was still alive. 

“ My friends and I are for disarmament—but not 
for the same reason as the AUies,” I said. By Ger¬ 
man disarmament we want to advance the fight of 

153 



Toni Sender 

our friends abroad to accomplish the same goal in 
their countries^’ 

Alas—it was a hope never realized. Republican 
Germany did disarm, but the Allied nations never 
kept their promise to follow suit. In this speech I 
expressed apprehension that the League of Nations 
might have the same fate as the famous fourteen points 
of President Wilson. And I justified this apprehension 
by showng that when General Degoutte occupied the 
German cities of Frankfurt and Darmstadt in violation 
of the Versailles Treaty, the League of Nations took 
no action. 

Finally I strongly attacked Hugo Stinnes, the power¬ 
ful German industrialist and master of trusts, whose 
attitude as a German representative at the Spa con¬ 
ference could not have failed to have an unfavourable 
effect. And I asked why he was not in the house 
during this debate, as was his duty as a member of 
the Reichstag ; and why he preferred to attend to his 
private affairs, negotiating with foreign business men 
at the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin. Throughout my 
speech the Nationalists interrupted me, and I had a 
hard fight with them. But I enjoyed it. I appre- 
, dated the staunch support given me by the entire 
Left, led by the veteran parliamentarian and old 
revolutionary, Georg Ledebour, one of the most 
forceful speakers of the house. 

This maiden speech had an aftermath that was 
rather embarrassing for me. One member of the 
Catholic parliamentary^ groups, Dr. H., wrote an 
article entitled Toni Sender which gave a detailed 
description of my first appearance before the house. 
It was written in a very friendly‘tone and was pub- 

154 



A Member of the Reichstag in My Twenties 

lished in almost the entire Catholic press of Germany. 

A journalist member of my own parliamentary group 
wrote a similar article in which he voiced exaggerated 
enthusiasm. Naturally, these writings became the 
object of gossip in the house, and gave rise to many 
troublesome jokes. I would have preferred to vanish 
until it was all forgotten. 

What an eventful period of my life was this year 
1920 ! With the adoption of the bill on the shop 
stewards a completely new task w^as conferred upon 
me. We thought the bill unsatisfactory, since it did 
not fulfil the promises made to the revolutionary 
masses, but we recognized that it was a beginning. 
It placed a totally new responsibility upon the active 
union men in factories and mines. The shop stewards 
were made not only the trustees of their fellow workers 
but also the guardians of the common good. They 
had the duty of opposing measures proposed by the 
executives of industry when these measures were felt 
to be inimical to the general welfare of the nation. 
It was the duty of the employer or his representative 
to report periodically to the shop stewards on the 
situation of the enterprise and of the trade, to present 
and explain to them the balance and the profit and 
loss account. One or two representatives of the shop 
council were delegated to sit on the board of directors 
of each corporation. 

We knew that most of the workers were unprepared 
for this new responsibility. But we were convinced 
that there was enough intelligence among the labour¬ 
ing classes and that appropriate training would develop 
capacities that might surprise those employers who 
considered the law harmless because of the workers’ 

155 



Toni Sender 

ignorance. Robert Dissmann asked me if I was 
ready to become editor of a Shop Councils^ Magazine 
for the metal trades which the Metal Workers Union 
had decided to publish. I would have to write one 
or two articles for ever)' issue, recruit the contributors, 
keep in contact with the shop councils, and explain 
and discuss all legislation concerning the councils— 
economic, financial, and social. It would mean hard 
work, especially in the beginning when all had to be 
improvised, but the temptation was too great to be 
withstood. An effort had to be made to show that 
the workers meant business when they demanded 
socialization ; to prove that they were able to acquire 
the knowledge necessary to understand business and 
shop management and, still more, that they could 
develop new concepts w^hich would lay the basis for 
a new social order. The pause in the revolution had 
to be used to educate the men -who would accomplish 
the revolutionary task in the economic field. My 
experience in the metal trust, my studies of economics, 
and my knowledge of the legislative machinery would 
be helpful, Robert and his colleagues of the Metal 
Workers Union thought. 

Through the entire period of thirteen years -during 
which I worked for the magazine I met with most 
loyal co-operation from the board as well as ' from 
the shop councils. A lasting comradeship developed, 
based on mutual confidence. Wherever I had to lec¬ 
ture, in any city or town of Germany, my steel worker 
friends and especially members of the shop councils 
would be present. Very often we would meet after 
the lecture to discuss my recent articles in the maga¬ 
zine or problems they had to deal with in their shops 

156 



A Member of the Reichstag in My Twenties 

or unions. This friendship made my life fuller, gave 
it more meaning. I know that all our common study 
and experience cannot have been in vain. Of course, 
accounts in life are not rendered exactly as in busi¬ 
ness. Often you cannot strike the balance yourself— 
life in its time, perhaps after your time, wil do it. I 
now have steel and metal worker friends all over the 
world—we remain a brotherhood bound to each 
other by a common struggle and common ideas. 
When in 1935 I went to Cleveland, Ohio, for a lecture, 
how great was my surprise to have as my chairman 
an old friend, Gustav Dabringhaus, who had been 
employed at the Krupp factory in Essen and who had 
since become a prosperous American citizen. He 
introduced me to the gathering with the following 
story : 

“ It was in the spring of 1920. The political weaves 
were high in the Ruhr district. The Metal Workers 
Union had increased its membership in Essen from 
5,000 in 1918 to 35,000. Many young, wild, and 
inexperienced elements were among them. The Inde¬ 
pendent Socialists dominated the union’s board. All 
of a sudden they found guns somewhere in the 
Krupp factory. The workers promptly smashed them 
under the steam hammers. Nevertheless, the rumour 
of a planned counter-revolution spread. The shop 
chairman decided on a protest strike. The brothers 
of the extreme Left wanted to push the protest strike 
into a political strike. In the beginning only 25 per 
cent, of all workers participated in it. 

“ The government sent troops to Essen. For the 
first time we saw Noske guards. More and more 
workers broke away from the strike. The local board 

157 



Toni Sender 

of the union wanted to terminate it in some way. 
But the shop chairmen as a body did not want to give 
up, and it was decided that a membership meeting 
should make a decision. The masses of the strikers 
gathered in the North Park Hall, Altenessen. More 
than 2,000 men, mostly steel workers, filled the hall, 
expecting as main speaker a member of the national 
board of the union. The extreme leftists went around 
warning : ** Don’t let them fool you ! 

'' Suddenly a patrol with steel helmets and guns 
penetrated the hail. A row developed, some cowards 
jumped out of the open Mndows. The lieutenant 
gave a warning signal, and Wilhelm Steinhauer as 
chairman opened the meeting. He declared that it was 
ridiculous to be afraid of the soldiers at a moment 
when they were prepared to discuss a continuation 
of the strike. Then to this restless assembly, and to 
the great surprise of all, he introduced a delicate 
young woman who appeared all the more incon¬ 
gruous as she stood next to the tall Wilhelm. The 
extremists smiled furtively. The steel workers sat 
down and looked disconcertedly into their glasses of 
beer. What can this young person have to tell us ?— 
and, besides, we shall scarcely be able to hear her. 
But soon calm was established. 

“ Toni Sender appeared from behind the much too 
big speakers’ table and stood next to it, her hands on 
her hips. She spoke clearly and penetratingly of 
political actions, of economic struggles, and of eco¬ 
nomic strikes with direct demands, strikes which some¬ 
times may last long. But the political strike in most 
cases is spontaneous, she said. It could last only a 
limited time, and that was the only way to develop 

158 



A Member of the Reichstag in Mj Twenties 

it into mass action. Was there any chance to develop 
the present strike into a mass action? A man who 
interrupted her was silenced with the remark that 
one should not see the world revolution dn every 
bursting bubble. The restless mass of steel workers 
had become silent and attentive. They followed the 
clear, logical conclusions and trusted this brave little 
woman. By an overwhelming majority they voted to 
end the political strike before it was entirely lost.'' 

Thus ran the account of my friend in Cleveland. 
I had forgotten the incident and at first listened to 
his stor}^ as if it did not concern me. 

My collaboration with the metal and steel workers 
became closer and more intimate. I took part also in 
their activities in the- international field. I accom¬ 
panied the union’s delegation to the international 
metal workers convention in Copenhagen as an in¬ 
terpreter, but on my own account, at the same time 
reporting the congress for the German labour press. 
It was an interesting task because I was permitted to 
go beyond the interpreter’s duty and to help to bring 
the different national delegations to a better under¬ 
standing. It was but a short time after the war and 
misunderstandings had not yet been entirely removed, 
especially between the Germans and the French and 
Belgians. The fact, however, that on the German 
side there were a number of anti-war men and that 
the French delegation included A. Merrheim, who had 
been one of the most courageous opponents of the 
World War, made the approach much easier. Merr¬ 
heim was one of those few Frenchmen who dared to 
attend one of the internationa;! anti-war conferences 
in Switzerland during the war ; his was a superior 

159 



Toni Sender 

character and an unusually independent mind. He 
could be stubborn if necessary, but his talent and 
broad-mindedness certainly contributed to rebuilding 
the “ Iron International —the International Metal 
Workers Federation—on a more solid and effective 
basis. I made new ties of friendship also with the 
other foreign delegates, especially those of Britain, 
Belgium, and Czechoslovakia. They were ties which 
proved to be of lasting value. 

The International of the metal workers became 
part of my homeland. I attended most of their subse¬ 
quent conventions - and became one of their old 
guard,’' though I had not much of a past as a metal 
worker ” to legitimize me. While in Copenhagen I 
was, of course, expected to spend my leisure time 
with my German colleagues. The Germans, however, 
were an awfully serious group, almost gloomy. I felt 
that our work would benefit by some relaxation. So 
I went to the Austrian delegation and asked them to 
join us. How different these Austrians were ! Gay 
and cheerful, they took things more easily. To in¬ 
augurate our alliance I asked all the delegates, young 
and old, to come with me to the Tivoli Garden and 
to be good sports—to go to all foolish places from 

Russian mountains ” to the Tottering Dancing. 
They promised. The experiment proved a great 
success. For a few hours we forgot our trouble, 
became silly, and buried our animosities. 

Too soon, seriousness claimed us again. With the 
German delegation, I was boarding the steamer to 
return home when the French delegate came to tell 
me that he had just received a very important docu¬ 
ment, Moscow’s twenty-one conditions, the stipula- 

i6o 



A Member of the Reichstag in Mj Twenties 

tions of the Third International for parties washing 
to affiliate. Merrheim knew I was interested in and 
had worked for the unification of world labour on a 
decent basis acceptable to all He as well as I had 
striven for a union of the western with the eastern 
workers. The Independent Social Democratic party 
had sent delegates to Moscow to discuss this problem 
with, the Russian leaders. They were received in Mos¬ 
cow like subordinates. The Russians seemed to feel 
themselves the dictators not only of Russia but " of 
world labour as well. Unity was possible only if we 
submitted to the twenty-one conditions which Merr¬ 
heim had just received and shown to me. I grasped 
them with great excitement and read them breath¬ 
lessly. What impossible presumption ! My reaction 
was immediate. Unacceptable ! I always under¬ 
stood the struggle of labour as a fight for freedom, not 
as the submission of zealots to some superior com¬ 
mand, a central body far in the East, in Moscow, 
directing the destinies of the western, perhaps of the 
entire world labour movement. 

Immediately upon my arrival in Germany, I told 
Merrheim, '' I shall sit down and write a pamphlet 
opposing most energetically this unworthy challenge.’’ 
Robert Dissmann and Merrheim, both genuine 
Socialists, fully approved of my attitude. I agreed with 
Robert’s suggestion »that I go to the Harz Mountains 
for a few days to be undisturbed in my wiring. Only 
Robert was to know my whereabouts. 

Robert knew a place, isolated in the woods, named 
Romkerhalle. There I went. The plain mountain 
house stood in front of a waterfall. At the back the 
mountain creek roared day and night. The Harz 

i6i 



Toni Sender 

Mountains are like a huge.temple with high straight 
fir trees as columns,. Because of the time of the year 
I was the only guest in the house^ and I seldom met a 
human being on my short climbing excursions. I had 
quiet hours to think over the problems involved in 
the Moscow document and to make up my mind. 
These serious reflections led me to condemn even 
more severely the challenge of Moscow. It could lead 
only to loss of dignity and independence for our 
movement. It would not even be the dictatorship of 
the working classes but rather the dictatorship over 
them of a clique of bureaucrats. This was the idea I 
expressed in the title of my booklet. Once the idea 
was clearly conceived, I sat down and wrote without 
looking up. 

But my expectation of being alone 'for a few days 
was an illusion. I had not finished my writing when, 
unexpectedly, a \dsitor was announced. It was a dele¬ 
gate from Braunschweig who had learned my address 
from Robert. The movement in that state was hard 
pressed by the adherents of Moscow. Those opposed 
to this trend had sent him to see Robert in Stuttgart 
and asked him to locate me. I had not yet had a 
rest and needed it badly. But my comrade insisted 
so strongly, arguing that it was my duty to help them 
save the organization, that I consented to go with 
him at once. 

It was a heated and very close fight—but I won 
the battle there for our friends. And from that day 
on I had to go from state to state to oppose speakers 
who wanted to split our party and lead it into the 
Communist ranks and to submission to the Moscow 
central committee. It was a necessary, although an 

162 



^4 Member of the Reichstag in My Twenties 

unsatisfactory, fight. Our opponents did not speak 
on the issue. They glorified the Russian revolution 
—which everybody was ready to protect—and did 
their best to slide away from the conditions that the 
Russians had fixed for the privilege of combining all 
labour forces with theirs. I was successful in many 
places,.once having to speak for three and a half hours 
to convince a reluctant majority in a state convention. 
It was a grand battle—a fight for freedom of thought 
and decision in the labour movement and in society, 
and I have never regretted having led it in Germany. 

But it was the saddest time in my life. We used 
all our strength to fight each other in the labour 
movement while neglecting the much more neces¬ 
sary common struggle against the growing influence 
of the dark forces of the. past and the beginnings of a 
more modern and a more sinister reaction. The days 
of the Haile convention of the Independent Social 
Democrats of October, 1920, still seem to me like a 
nightmare. ' We knew the Moscow followers had the 
majority. Most of them were as though in a state of 
intoxication, happy and unreasoning. Arguing with 
them was therefore without avail. They had brought 
their followers' in the city of Halle, where they were 
in the majority, to the balconies. Insults flew dowm 
on us from the very first day. 

Then came the sensation of the convention. Gri¬ 
gory! Zinoviev, the secretary of the Third Interna¬ 
tional, came in person to make certain that the most 
promising revolutionary party of Germany would be 
disrupted. Zinoviev arrived like an operatic prima 
donna. Well-nourished and vain, he entered the hall 
triumphantly followed by an entourage of young ad- 

163 



Toni Sender 

mirers. But at the same time, almost unnoticed by 
the majority, another Russian entered the hall, a 
well-known and deserving veteran of the Russian and 
international labour movement whom I had met before 
in Paris. It was Martov, the theoretician of the 
Russian Social Democrats, who had spent years in 
czarist jails and who had suffered the same fate at the 
hands of the Bolsheviks during the past years for his 
stand in favour of social democracy. Finally he had 
been exiled from his homeland. He was sick, a 
shadow of a man, near death from tuberculosis con¬ 
tracted in jail. 

A glance at these two men was enlightening. Here 
the representative of the then ruling caste, happy, 
radiant, well fed—there the one who personified the 
oppressed, weak and sick, but with a fine spiritual 
face indicative of his refusal to surrender his faith. 
For although Martov and his party had made mis¬ 
takes, there was no reason whatsoever to doubt their 
honest revolutionary spirit. 

Grigoryi Zinoviev started to speak and went on for 
four hours. He declaimed in a somewhat broken Ger¬ 
man which only heightened the effect of his talk. A 
demagogue of high calibre, he seemed to judge the 
majority of his audience well. He spoke such primi¬ 
tive language that at one moment I could not con¬ 
tain myself any longer and shouted at him : “We are 
not muzhiks.’' He talked of the Russian revolution 
and its enemies but not of the twenty-one conditions 
for affiliation to the Third International. 

Someone had to reply. We selected Dr. Rudolf 
Hilferding, chief editor of our Berlin newspaper, 
Freiheit^ and famed as a theoretician. Usually he is not 

164 



A Member of the Reichstag in My Twenties 

a good speaker, for he has little of the orator about 
him. But if he is provoked and convinced of the im¬ 
portance of the issue, he can rise to great inteOectuai 
heights and make a deep impression on thinking 
people. However, the majority was not of that type, 
at least not during this period, and Hilferding could 
not influence the decision to be taken. But his three- 
hour speech in Halle remains an important historical 
document. Hilferding attacked the problem which 
Zinoviev had ignored. He emphasized that the Ger¬ 
man labouring classes must achieve their liberation for 
themselves and that they could not assign their think¬ 
ing to any outside body. He charged that it was not 
a labour policy that was being followed in Germany 
but a policy of factional interests. The only lesson to 
be learned from that experience, therefore, was no 
further split ! One must stop gutter competition in 
radicalism. Zinoviev had called the Amsterdam trade 
union international a '' yellow ’I international, but he 
had also expressed thanks for the boycott on the ship¬ 
ping of war material to the enemies of Soviet Russia. 
He thus expressed his thanks to the same men whom 
he insulted. For he called these men '' more dangerous 
than the White Guards '' murderers of the prole¬ 
tariat showing in so doing an appalling lack of 
moral feeling. 

Hilferding in opposing terrorism gave the following 
definition : the use of violence by a government for 
the purpose of frightening persons who supposedly 
could commit an offence but have not yet committed 
it; we call terror the arrest of brothers, sisters, mothers, 
and children, all this ugly policy of hostages, and we 
oppose especially the terrorism used to suppress every 

165 M 



Toni Sender 

free expression of opinion among the working classes. 
We are opposed to declaring invalid elections whose 
result does not please the government.’^ Hilferding 
predicted that the use of terrorism would make the 
party a sect and lead to the apathy of the masses, and 
to the spread of official corruption in the state. 

Did Zinoffiev hear again the words of this prophecy 
as he stood before the firing squad only sixteen years 
later ? And did he then feel the power of the motto 
mth which Schopenhauer, the German pliilosopher, 
had sent out his work and which had been recalled to 
the convention : Magna vis veritatis et praevalebit (Great 
is the power of truth and it will prevail). 

The resolution that opposed affiliation to the Third 
International through submission to the twenty-one 
conditions declared it would mean abandonment of 
the party’s independence, demolition of the Amsterdam 
trade union international, the expulsion of respected 
comrades, the splitting of the party and paralysis of 
its capacity for action. It was signed by Ledebour, 
Rosenfeld, myself, and others. 

When, after the vote was taken and the irrational 
had triumphed, I left the Halle convention hall 
with my friends to gather together what was left of 
a very promising young party, I felt deeply the great 
catastrophe that had occurred. The splitting and 
weakening of the only realistic and independent 
revolutionary party in Germany could lead only to 
the encouragement of reaction. The rule of the 
irrational always threatens disaster. What did it 
matter that after a short time those who had led in 
the surrender to Moscow’s dictates became sober and 
left the Communist party ? The damage was done ! 

i66 



A Member of the Reichstag in My Twenties 

I knew a new chapter in the history of German labour 
had begun. The split was worse than a defeat. 

However, there was no time for lamentations—the 
fight had to go on. A new threat appeared, the 
splitting of the trade union International by breaking 
away some of the national trade unions and getting 
them to join the Moscow Red Trade Union Interna¬ 
tional. I had collaborated with the so-caUed “ Amster¬ 
dam International,” had attended its first post-war 
convention in London, had helped as an interpreter 
when it was rebuilt, after its destruction by the war, 
on soHder foundations. It had efficient leaders in Edo 
Fimmen and Jan Oudegeest, men whose firiendship 
and character I appreciated. Should the work of 
destruction go on ? The national board of the Metal 
Workers Union sent me to the most crucial districts 
to lead the fight to keep the economic organizations 
of labour intact despite the disruption on the poHticai 
front. It was a really hard job. One had to deal 
with fanatics and in some places with toughs, especially 
in the harbours on the coast where I was sent to speak. 
In this fight I did not suffer a single defeat—except 
to my health. Many meetings were held in unventi¬ 
lated places, crowded by thousands and filled with 
thick clouds of smoke. Usually I would have to speak 
and argue into the early morning hours. But in the 
end Amsterdam won over Moscow in the German 
metal and steel workers’ unions. 

While this fighting had to be carried on, it became 
necessary to rebuild the Independent Social Demo¬ 
cratic party, which had been seriously disrupted by 
the Moscow split. Efficient and successful work in 
the Frankfurt City Council became more important 

167 



Toni Sender 

than ever, and at the same time I was expected to do 
my full duty in the Reichstag and on its committees. 
I had been elected a member of the committee on 
foreign affairs—of which I was to remain a member 
until 1933—and of the committees on economics and 
on social legislation. During this difficult period of 
readjustment the work'was intense, particularly for a 
young person who was not inclined to take things easy. 
My physician was also a member of the Franldurt 
City Council, although not of my political group. 
He observed me growing thinner with every month 
and warned me to drop my work for a few weeks. 
Undernourishment in the last years of the war, over¬ 
work during the revolution, lack of sleep, and an 
abundance of worry all combined to undermine my 
health. But this period seemed so decisive for the 
German republic that I did not want to stop working 
—until I broke down after a meeting in my constitu¬ 
ency, apparently with an inflammation of the nerves. 
My friends, among them my physician, were greatly 
disturbed. I became weaker and weaker, was sent 
to a hospital and then to a sanatorium. It did not 
help much. 

When the formation of the so-called Vienna Inter¬ 
national (a Socialist and labour international opposed 
to Moscow dictatorship as well as to opportunist 
reformism) was decided on, I was made a delegate to 
its founding convention. I gave up hospital and 
sanatorium and travelled to Vienna. Unity of the 
labouring masses, nationally as well as internationally,' 
seemed to me the highest goal. The International 
Working Union of Socialist Parties, as the Vienna' 
International was called, made no pretension to being 

168 



A Member of the Reichstag in My Twenties 

considered the International. It was aware that no 
real and effective International existed as long as 
division continued between the second and third 
Internationals and while some important parties 
remained unaffiliated with either of them. 

Among the parties assembled in Vienna besides 
the German Independent Socialists were the French 
Socialists, the then still influential British Independent 
Labour Party, and the strong Austrian and Swiss 
Socialist parties. Otto Bauer, the Austrian leader, 
was from the beginning the most influential intellectual 
leader of the Vienna union. For a short time Minister 
of Foreign Affairs of the Austrian republic, Bauer had 
led his party into opposition to the government. He 
was loved by the masses of Austrian workers and hated 
by the Catholic leaders, especially by the Chancellor, 
Monseigneur Ignaz Seipel. Bauer w^as of superior 
intelligence, sarcastic and biting in discussion, a scholar 
in social and economic sciences, and an artist in 
formulating his ideas in speeches and writings. We 
became close friends and remained in touch with each 
other until his death in 1938, after his bitter experience 
of forced emigration to Czechoslovakia and later to 
France. 

I appreciated Bauer’s advice, but I often meditated 
on the merit of assigning to scholars the tasks of states¬ 
men, a consideration that occurred to me also ^ in 
connection with Dr. Rudolf Hilferding, the theoretician 
of the German movement and later twice Minister of 
Finance for short periods. Scholars seldom are men 
of quick, realistic, and shrewd action, such as is 
needed in moments of emergency. And the central 
European nations in the first post-war period seldom 

169 



Toni Sender 

left the stage of emergency. But government _ needs 
such men as advisers and experts. As such we could 
not dispense wth them. 

We decided in Vienna to set up the International 
Working Union for the purpose of labouring for inter¬ 
national unity on a programme broad enough to form 
a basis of discussion. Alas—the goal has not been 
reached even at the present day. Negotiations with 
Moscow’s representatives were begun twice, and I 
took part in one of them—but they were to no avail. 
The Third International was not prepared to acknow¬ 
ledge the independence and freedom of the national 
organizations. As a reaction to this attitude, other 
parties were driven to a bitter feeling toward the 
Russians, leading almost to implacable enmity. 



VIII 


ENFORCED RETREAT 

After the work in Vienna was done, I suffered a 
new breakdown in 1921. Tuberculosis of the lungs 
was the physician^s diagnosis. Again I was forced 
into hospital and sanatorium—first in Austria, later 
in Germany. Instead of the hoped-for improvement, 
I grew worse. My physician friend in Frankfurt 
insisted that I must go to Davos in Switzerland, to be 
healed in that sheltered village high in the mountains 
where the sun’s rays reflected from the glaciers have 
a miraculous curative effect. 

I can’t afford to do it,” I told Dr. N. Although 
my' income in Germany is high, the depreciated 
German currency amounts to little when exchanged 
for the Swiss franc. Let me go on with my work 
and use up all my strength until it is all over.” 

I ■ must be quite frank with you,” he replied. 

Possibly you would not die soon. You might have 
to go through a long period of sickness, finally becoming 
dependent on others.” 

That was the last alternative I would accept. I 
talked the matter over with Robert. He promised 
that while in Switzerland I could continue my editorial 
work for the Shop Councils^ Mugazii^o^ and that he 
would provide me with all books, documents, and 

171 



i om oenaer 


materials needed to keep me informed. I never 
questioned for a moment the fact that I had to go 
on working while tiying to recover. On my trip to 
Davos I stopped with Robert in Lucerne to assist 
the Metal Workers International, once more in con¬ 
vention. I served as an interpreter despite my illness, 
which now was accompanied by fever. This was my 
last contact with the labour movement before banish¬ 
ment to the solitude of the Swiss mountains for 
approximately a year. 

My physician in Davos, Dr, F. Bauer, who soon 
became an understanding friend, found me seriously 
threatened by the sickness. He ordered a complete 
rest, in bed in the open air. A sure instinct advised 
me not to go to one of the huge sanatoriums, those 
“ Magic Mountains '' where you acquire too friendly 
a relationship with your ailment and become captivated 
by an atmosphere of idleness hidden behind a veil of 
inspiring conversation and philosophizing. I saw such 
cases later, young men and women taken away from 
active life before they had established close ties with 
it, unable to conceive the idea that eventually they 
would have to go back to workaday activity where 
they would no longer be the objects of special care 
and attention. Subconsciously, they came to fear the 
curing of their malady—a cure which might render 
them no longer more interesting than an average 
person. They came to fear becoming again an 
anonymous person in the crowd. 

With the help of Socialist friends in Switzerland I 
found a room with a private veranda in a small pension, 
where I would be undisturbed. My physician, order¬ 
ing a very strict cure, understood that I had to work 

172 



Enforced Retreat 

in bed for two reasons. First of all, to keep in close 
contact with the life and problems of my comrades, 
and, also, to earn the cost of my cure. Luckily enough 
I was by then known abroad and could write articles 
for foreign magazines, many of them for Swiss publica¬ 
tions. Together with my work for the German 
newspapers and periodicals I managed to get along. 

The idea of being excluded from active life for an 
unlimited period of time at first'seemed appalling to 
me. How grateful did I soon become ! After such 
an extremely tense life as I had led in the immediate 
past, it was good and even necessary to have an 
opportunity for meditation and a calm survey of the 
past. Most of the time I was alone with my books 
and my documents. My bed stood on the veranda, 
the view open to the snow-crowmed mountains glittering 
in the strong rays of a shining sun. The scmtry w^as 
grandiose. The quiet was emphasized by the har¬ 
monious sound of the cowbells on the Alpine pastures 
and by the plodding of horses when snow^, several feet 
high, had covered all the roads. 

From time to time Mo or Hanna would come to 
see me. Both, former patients at Davos, were now 
established citizens of the place. Mo, a very able 
lawyer, a tall, handsome chap looking like Hercules, 
had been sick for years and had done most of his study¬ 
ing in bed. He was a well-educated Socialist, eapr 
to exchange ideas and experiences. Hanna, his wife, 
had gone through a similar period of suffering and 
become a highly refined person. She w^as stiU of 
delicate appearance but was courageous and had a 
fine sense of humour. Comradeship between us 
developed into a warm friendship. They w^ere natur- 



Toni Sender 

ally deeply interested in the German revolution and' 
would inquire about the reasons for its having come 
to a standstill. 

I tried to answer them. 

“ Until now my political activity has been inspired 
by the assumption that Germany was still in a revolu¬ 
tionary phase and that our tactics therefore had to 
push in the direction of great fundamental change. 
But we had to deal with a people not accustomed to 
democracy or the use of liberty, with a nation which 
had become free only after the World War. Our 
people had no abundance of spontaneity. The middle 
classes to a large extent disliked political activity. 
They resented being stirred up. Many so-called 
intellectuals declared with pride that they were not 
at all interested in, and were therefore ignorant of, 
politics. The desire for rest, politically, was partly 
bom out of the exhaustion, the suffering, and the 
stan^ation of the war years. Lack of spontaneity as 
a trait in the German character, a great fatigue from 
the exhaustion of the great struggle, and no tradition 
of direct responsibility in government were unfertile 
soil for a successful revolution. 

The Allied nations gave the nation no fair chance 
to make the young republic a success. The national 
self-respect was continuously humiliated. Germany 
was treated as a defendant. The nonpolitical-minded 
stratum of German society interpreted this treatment 
as a sign that the Weimar democracy was an inade¬ 
quate system, and they compared it with the past— 
the proud empire with the Kaiser at the head. An 
atmosphere of dissatisfaction and resentment could 
not fail to develop. 


m 



Enforced Retreat 

What will come will depend upon, our capacity 
to learn from the past. Our task is by no means 
hopeless—^if the German working masses are not 
revolutionary, they are people with the most marvellous 
spirit of sacrifice. WTiat they need are bold and clear¬ 
sighted leaders. Leadership there must be in any 
organized society. And democracy needs men and 
women with great vision, boldness, character, and 
courage. Where an autocracy uses force, democracy 
is bound to use superior intelligence. If we w^ant to 
win for the cause of democracy and social and economic 
justice, we must create unity. Unity, and also agree¬ 
ment on some major changes and the tactics to be 
used for their achievement. We must ban the narrow'- 
mindedness and petty quarrelling in which some 
Germans excel. And we must show that we are 
without personal ambition but full of ambition for 
the creation of a better world. Do you not agree 
with us that such a policy must meet with under¬ 
standing abroad and wdn us the support of the labour¬ 
ing classes of the world to give to a free Germany 
her proper place in the community of nations ? ” 

Meanwhile, as I spoke, it had become late in the 
evening. When Mo left me, the moon stood bright 
in a wide, dark sky, wrapping the majestic mountains 
with their glaciers in a shining silver sheet—a sight 
of sublimity and calm, of a majestic, almost immutable, 
cosmic world, contrasting with the restlessness and 
insecurity of the world human beings have made. 

Though a year had passed since I had dropped out 
of active life, I continued my close contacts with people 
and events. Only rarely would one or another fellow 
sufferer come to see me. They were persons who had 

W5 



Toni Sender 

been “ stud>'ing ” at Davos “ university ” for a number 
of years. They told me how impossible it was for 
them to return to hfe do%vn below. People there 
would not understand them. Some of them had come 
to Davos at a very early age, had there met interesting 
personalities. They had had plenty of time to discuss 
and talk and to build up the impression that they led 
an unusually interesting life. How could they ever 
become reconciled again to a tri\ial, everyday life in 
a small town or even in a city as an ordinary person ? 
It did not occur to them that all this exciting talk 
and debating on a mountain-top was anything but real 
life. I tried to make them understand that, to help 
them as best I could—but I doubt whether I was in 
any way successful. Yet to observe them was a decided 
warning, although the danger, for me, was not a very 
grave one. 

“ Would you be ready to become editor-in-chief of 
the Freiheit ? ” was the question asked of me one day 
in a letter from Wilhelm Dittmann, a member of our 
party’s central committee. I was most surprised. 
The Freiheit was the central newspaper of the Inde¬ 
pendent Social Democratic party. It had been edited 
since its foundation by Dr. Rudolf Hilferding. Robert 
had already written to me that the Berlin membership, 
as well as a number of leading people in the party, had 
become dissatisfied with the paper’s attitude, con¬ 
sidering it too refornaistic. They had held several 
conferences of the central bodies of the party and as a 
result of these, Dittmann said, they had decided to 
offer me the editorship. 

It assuredly was a great honour for a young woman 
and naturally a temptation. But I resisted. It was 

176 



Enforced Retreat 

never that kind of ambition that dictated my decisions. 
Certainly I love to see worth while things done and 
to share in the doing. Who receives the credit for 
the accomplishment, however, has not much import¬ 
ance. I considered the implications of the offer and 
decided that under the circumstances I should not 
accept it. I was not yet cured. Being of an inde¬ 
pendent mind, I knew there would arise issues on 
which my attitude might be antagonistic to that of 
other party leaders. Would I be physically strong 
enough to fight things through ? Furthermore, I had 
never been a factional adherent and did not want to 
become one. Better, therefore, not to be blinded by 
honour and to make a clear decision. No—I do not 
want to become the editor ! 

Robert, with whom I had discussed my reasons, 
and who would have liked to see me at the head of 
the paper, finally agreed with me. He even took two 
days in the midst of all his terrific work to come to 
see me in Davos. Here, as everywhere he went, his 
very kind, humorous Rhenish way won him the hearts 
of all those he met. Alas—his visit was too short and 
passed too quickly for us to discuss all those problems 
that had preoccupied me in the months of my solitude. 
But I was so glad I could be useful to my friend, even 
during my illness, by making some studies for him and 
for the movement, thus helping him to draft motions 
and courses of action. 

Yet I was impatient to go back to the lowlands. 
Dr. Bauer, my physician and friend, was understanding. 
Of course, I wanted to regain my health, knowing 
what strain the normal activity of those restless days 
would again put on everyone. The will to recover 

177 



Toni Sender 

had helped to accelerate my improvement. Towards 
the spring of 1922 my doctor declared he would permit 
me to leave for the Tessin and after a short stay there 
to go on and tr^' normal life again. 

Have you ever been for a ver>^ long time in a region 
where your eye falls perpetually on blank white 
where the roadsj the roofs of the housesj the mountains, 
all that you can see is as if wrapped in a white winding 
sheet of snow? Hedges and fences vanish—^it is 
almost as if the borders of private property have dis¬ 
appeared. At first you enjoy it immensely—it is 
something so imusual. How tired of it I had become, 
I discovered only when, from the train which brought 
me down to the valley, I suddenly saw the first piece of 
green meadow. It seemed almost a miracle. So 
deeply green, so cheerful, so expressive. It was only 
this unforgettable joy that made me realize how for 
months I had been hungering for some colour other 
than the eternal white. 

Erich and Nettie, very dear friends, awaited me 
in the Tessin and made my transition to the world 
of the healthy as pleasant as possible. From their 
pretty little home at the top of the hill in Orselina 
I had an enchanting view of the Lago Maggiore. AU 
around us the most colourful flowers sprouted in the 
blessed spring days. I had to learn to walk again, 
but soon I was able to take long stroUs about the 
hills and along the lake -with their lavish and changing 
colours. Erich, a capable physician, cared for me 
well and permitted me to go on a trip through Italy. 
In IVClan I met Robert. Both of us were to go to the 
Rome convention of the International Federation of 
Trade Unions. In the short time that was left before 

178 



Enforced Retreat 

the conventions opened we enjoyed the beauty of the 
sunny country and its ancient art and architecture. 
We went as far as Naples, Capri, and Pompeii, and 
our imagination wandered back to those days when 
a privileged caste lived there in the midst of the most 
exquisite beauty of nature and the most refined works 
of art—until an angry god, hurling burning lava from 
Vesuvius, made a cruel end to all and buried what 
had been almost paradise. 

Fate was not quite so cruel to us, but already we 
could hear in Rome the distant rumble of another 
thunder—signs of the approaching pestilence of fascism. 
The Rome trade union convention was to be the last 
free congress held in Italy. I was asked by Edo 
Fimmen, one of the Internationars two secretaries, to 
act as an interpreter in French, English, and German, 
as I had done at previous conventions. I could not 
refuse Edo—it was a pleasure to work with him. As 
long as he was the InternationaFs secretary he gave 
the movement colour and vivacity. He is a broad- 
shouldered giant, looks like a viking, and has some¬ 
thing of the character of those bold navigators. Master 
of many languages, he was a revolutionary as well as 
an organizer, rare qualities that fitted him for his 
, office. But he also had a slight touch of the adventurer 
—^wMch later was to create difficulties for him. (When 
I saw him again in 1938, in the United States, I realized 
that the years had taken away from him, this latter 
trait, but he has remained a ffiesh, unceremonious 
fellow wholly devoted to the labour movement.) 

• Fimmen showed in the Rome convention the same 
driving force he had displayed in London more than 
two years before. The effects of the World War were 

■ 179 



Toni Sender 

still very strongly felt at this time. Everyone knew 
what a repetition of such a catastrophe would mean 
for the working classes. On the other hand, the labour 
movement had become too strong to permit itself to 
adopt resolutions it would not be able to carry through. 
It was a serious, sometimes heated debate that preceded 
adoption of a declaration that the international labour 
movement would call a general strike if need be to 
prevent another world war. 

In London in 1920 the Italian delegates had been 
impatient and more revolutionary than those of any 
other country. The situation had changed somewhat 
by the spring of 1922, shortly before Mussolini’s black¬ 
shirt march on Rome. As usual, the convention was 
also to offer its delegates some recreation. The 
Italian comrades, therefore, had prepared an excursion 
to the famous Tivoli. When the delegates gathered 
to start on the trip, they were compelled to wait for 
a rather long time. “ What is the cause of the delay ? ” 
we asked. For some time w'e could not get an answer. 
Finally they told us. 

“ We do not yet know if we can go to Tivoli. Last 
night there were riots between the Fascists and the 
workers. One Fascist has been killed. There is still 
some excitement and we do not know whether we 
can let you go there.” 

Again we had to wait. Finally word came that we 
would go not to Tivoli but to another place instead. 
I felt disappointed by the decision. Once it had been 
decided to go to Tivoli, the delegates of a labour con¬ 
vention should not have been afraid to go, notwith¬ 
standing possible incidents. We should not have 
given the impression of being scared. But it did not 

180 



Enforced Retreat 

help—we were not to go to Tivoli. Was it an omen ? 
The Tivoli incident gave me food for thought, but 
when I left Rome I did not foresee that things would 
change so quickly, that this was to be our last visit 
to a democratic Italy for a long time. 



IX 

RETURN TO THE STRUGGLE 

During my stay in Davos I had exchanged ideas 
with Robert many times on the issue of industrial 
unionism. The Metal Workers Union stood for it, 
not only because it was itself an industrial union 
and the largest in the world, but also because it was 
composed of extremely progressive elements. We 
were striving for industrial unionism not only because 
that form of organization made it easier to organize 
the modern mass-production industries, but also 
because we saw new tasks given to labour for which 
they had to create the necessary tools. How could 
the” workers participate in the administration of an 
industry' without learning to deal not only with 
problems of their trade but also with those of the 
entire industry? They must broaden their interests 
and their knowledge. They must learn to understand 
the general economic needs, what was wrong with 
existing methods of management, and how to organize 
them for the welfare of the people of the nation. 
How could we time and again demand sociahzation 
of the key industries without preparing the instru¬ 
ments for the workers’ part in its realization ? In 
this respect, industrial unionism, as we saw the need 
of it in Germany in 1922, differed from the aims of 

182 



Return to the Struggle 

the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which now 
functions in the United States. We saw the industrial 
unions as vehicles of socialized industry, not merely 
as an organizing technique. 

As in most other countries, Germany's labour 
movement represented craft as well as industrial 
unions. The old craft union members had such a 
strong loyalty to their organizations that it was hard 
to bring them to make any concessions. The pro¬ 
minent leaders of the Federation of Labour favoured 
the craft unions. Before the convention of the federa¬ 
tion convened in Leipzig in June, 1922, we had worked 
intensely for the victory of our ideas. I attended 
the convention as a journalist for the Independent 
Socialist press and therefore also for the famous 
Leipziger Volkszeitung^ one of the oldest and most 
respected labour dailies in the country. But I had 
promised Robert to help, him, especially during the 
time he was detained in committee meetings. Fortu¬ 
nately, the industrial unionist delegates recognized my 
right to take part in the discussions mtMn their caucus 
even though I was not a delegate. Our group became 
stronger during the debates, at least partly because 
of Robert's excellent exposition of our point of \ 4 ew. 
Could the opposition deny that a great number of 
skilled craftsmen as well as skilled or semi-skilled 
labourers, although employed by the same employers, 
were divided into several unions, w^hile on the side 
of ownership there was a single, unified director¬ 
ship ? Could they deny that the form of labour 
organization had changed very little during a period 
when the most rapid transformation had taken place 
in industry ? What had labour done to meet the 

183 



Toni Sender 

concentration of capital into huge single concerns 
and combines ? 

“ If you want to support efficiently the work of 
the shop councils, you can do it only on the basis of 
the industry'. We have \«dened the interest of labour 
from their owm working and living conditions to an 
understanding of the implications of their industry as 
a part of the national economy. The principle should 
be : in every' shop only one union,” Robert told the 
convention. He was the most applauded speaker. 

But the craft unionists would not give up so easily. 
They were furious about my critical articles in the 
Leipziger Volkszeiiung, which every delegate found each 
morning on his chair. One morning after the open¬ 
ing of the convention the chairman launched a bitter 
attack on me—knowing that as a journalist I was 
in no position to answer him. But the bulk of the 
delegates, no matter what their political affiliation, 
came to my defence and insisted that the chairman 
had no right of censorship over the press and that 
I was fuUy entitled to write editorially my personal 
view's whether they liked them or not. But that did 
not prevent the presiding officer of the next session 
from repeating the admonition to me, although in a 
somew'hat milder form. The rebuke was sweetened 
by the chairman, old August Brey, president of the 
powerful Factory Workers Union. When I returned 
to my seat after a recess, I found he had left me a 
package of chocolate. The kind old man wanted to 
show me that he desired no enmity between us. 

Before the discussion was terminated by the adop¬ 
tion of the decisive paragraph of Robert Dissmann’s 
motion, the news burst on the convention of a new 

184 



Return to the Struggle 

attack upon the republic. Dr. Walter Rathenau, 
Minister for Foreign x4frairs5 who had given up his 
position in the great electrical concern il.E.G. to 
place his talent at the disposal of the republic, had 
been assassinated on his way to his office. In full 
daylight, while drmng in his open car, he had been 
shot by three young men who were under the influence 
of illegal, reactionary organizations. One of them was 
a Nazi. Rathenau was a man of the bourgeoisie, head 
of one of the biggest corporations of the country. 
But the labour convention boiled at the news of the 
cowardly murder of this genuine idealist. Everyone 
knew who were really responsible for the murder— 
those men of the parties of the Right who had viciously 
expressed their hatred of this statesman’s spoken and 
printed word. Rathenau had worked devotedly for 
improvement of the German republic’s position on 
the international scene. But these men of the Right 
hated the republic. They deeply resented the influ¬ 
ence of the labouring people in a democratic state, 
and the workers understood that the shots which 
killed the capable and idealistic minister were also 
aimed at them. 

The convention was immediately adjourned as a 
sign of deep concern and indignation. Many dele¬ 
gates gathered around us, and we started to draft a 
motion which would draw the necessary conclusions 
from these warning shots. The first resolution was 
for a general strike all over Germany. Mass meet¬ 
ings were to support our demands for the protection 
of the republic, and for the elimination of all enemies 
of the republic from the administration, the army, 
and the courts. The convention also directed a call 

185 



Toni Sender 

to all union members to be ready to defend the 
young republic with their lives. The Leipzig workers 
immediately organized a mass demonstration on the 
Augustus-Platz, in the centre of the city, and asked 
me to be one of their speakers. The huge square w^as 
black, so densely stood the masses who seemed to be 
ready to follow any call. It was a stormy day and it 
was hard to speak against the wind. We had no loud¬ 
speaker. However, a solemn silence w^as maintained 
so that our voices might better carry against space 
and storm. It was one of the most impressive demon¬ 
strations of those years rich in mass gatherings. When 
a few days later I was called to address a similar mass 
meeting in the open air in Frankfurt, I again had 
the feeling : These German workers, in spite of so 
much suffering and so many disappointments, are again 
ready to sacrifice to the limit in order to establish a 
genuine democracy with social and economic justice. 
They fully understood the significance of the murder 
of Dr. Rathenau. 

When those of us at the trade union convention 
who were members of the Reichstag rushed back to 
Berlin we met not only great excitement but a com¬ 
pletely new situation. Realizing the danger to the 
life of the republic, the parliamentary group of the 
Independent Socialists declared its readiness for closer 
co-operation with the other Socialist groups. It 
agreed to enter the government in order to carry 
through the demands of the trade union convention. 
The head of the government at that time was the 
Catholic, Dr. Josef Wirth, Rathenau's close friend. 
WTioever heard his inspired, flaming speech in the 
Reichstag, in which he accused those responsible for 

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Return to the Struggle 

the crimes never forgot it. He concluded mdth the 
famous wordSs The enemy stands at the right;” his 
finger pointing to the right of the Reichstag. But 
alas ! Dr. Wirth’s statesmanship did not keep pace 
with his great oratoiy. A courageous cleaning out of 
the republic’s enemies could not be carried through 
in alliance with the German People’s party {Deutsche 
Volkspartei)^ the party of hea\y industry with its 
reactionaries and monarchists. When the offer of 
the Independent Socialists to collaborate with the 
cabinet of Dr. Wirth became knowm, the answer of 
the Catholic or Centre party (Centrum) was in the 
negative. The German People’s party even demanded 
extension of the cabinet towards the Right ! Dr. Wirth, 
instead of putting before his o\m Catholic party his 
clear decision to collaborate with ail republicans, 
including all democratic labour parties, gave up the 
idea of extending his government to the Left. 

After this weak attitude the chapters that followed 
did not surprise those of us who realized that the 
Rathenau murder had created a new revolutionary 
situation. There had appeared the possibility that 
an immediate appeal to the electorate would send to 
the Reichstag a majority more likely to take drastic 
measures for the safety of the republic. But no such 
appeal was made. Instead, it was left to the Reichs¬ 
tag, as it was then constituted, to answ^er the attack 
on the republic. This it did by drafting a iaw^ for 
the protection of the republic ” and creating a special 
Central Court for the Protection of the Republic. 
These new laws could achieve their purpose only if 
at the same time the great clean-up in the administra¬ 
tion, the army, and the courts were accomplished and 

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ali secret anti-republican organizations suppressed. 
But how could we expect this most necessary task to 
be performed as long as the friends of the reaction, 
the People’s party ministers, helped to form the 
government ? The law created for the protection of 
the republic was later often turned by reactionary 
judges against the labour movement ! 

Another opportunity to strengthen the republic had 
been lost. . . . However, the strong mass movement 
that followed the murder of Rathenau had one result : 
creation among the masses of a desire for greater 
unity. The two Socialist parties responded by form¬ 
ing a working alliance of their Reichstag groups. 
Immediately the other parties replied : the People’s 
party, the Democrats, and, the Catholic party formed 
their own alliance—obwously to counteract any pos¬ 
sible increase in labour’s influence as a consequence 
of our closer collaboration. 

I certainly was for greater unity of labour but I 
considered organic unity unsatisfactory as long as 
there was not sufficient agreement on our immediate 
goal, on the methods of achieving it, and on the groups 
with which we should be ready to collaborate and 
those we should oppose and even' fight. This unity 
of programme had not yet been reached between the 
two parties. I did not want utter uniformity, but I 
was under the impression that the Majority Socialists 
had not drawm sufficient, if any, lessons from the 
defeats in the revolution. I felt they had the mistaken 
conception that Socialists in a republic must always 
take part in the government, while the Independent 
Socialists—at least a majority of us—wanted to be 
very careful in forming alliances with other groups. 

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Return to the Struggle 

We were strongly opposed to any coalition with, the 
party of big business, the People’s party. Besides 
these immediate problems, we differed in our general 
outlook on the future of the republic in that we 
Independent Socialists considered the revolution not 
yet terminated. I insisted that we should try to clear 
up these points in negotiations between the leaders of 
both parties before the Nuremberg unity convention. 

I was convinced that only.a real agreement on the 
fundamentals of politics and tactics would give formal 
unity weight and value. However, the time was short, 
and I had to recognize that the bulk of our member¬ 
ship and of the masses were in favour of unity. 

It was a hard inner struggle for me. What should 
I do, join the united party knowing that I could not 
agree with the attitude of the important leaders of the 
former Majority Socialists, or stay aloof and separate 
myself from the masses of the labouring people with 
whom I felt so closely connected ? I pondered for 
a long time before I made up my mind. I could 
not .abandon the struggle, the fight for real political, 
social, and economic freedom, to w^ich all my 
endeavours had been devoted—and I knew I could 
not fight efficiently as an individual but only within 
an organization. I decided i I shall not separate 
myself from the masses who h.ave had confidence in 
me throughout the years. But if I join the united 
party, I- can do it only in an upright, honest way, 
openly expressing my beliefs and insisting upon the 
right to go on fighting for them. 

I conferred with a group of friends, Robert natur¬ 
ally among them, and proposed to them a draft of 
a declaration which w^e would present to our party 

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convention in Gera preceding the great unity congress 
in Nuremberg. In this declaration I had formulated 
in very precise language our fundamental conception. 
It declared that we entered the united party in good 
faith, prepared to use democratic methods within the 
unified movement in our attempt to make our pro¬ 
gramme that of the majority. Those too eager to 
obtain unity did not like the idea of the declaration. 
But no sooner had it become known that such a 
declaration was planned than the delegates came to 
ask me about it. A large majority asked to be per¬ 
mitted to sign it. It was later to become the magna 
charta of our right to stand for our convictions, for 
the freedom of thought without which one cannot 
belong to any organization. 

The Nuremberg convention of unity offered to the 
thousands w'ho witnessed it a most solemn spectacle. 
No one could restrain his emotion when our old 
Wilhelm Bock stretched out his hand to old Wilhehn 
Pfannkuch in a touching scene of reconciliation. 
Everybody seemed to be happy. But I was not. I 
was very' sad, as if something had died for me. I felt 
apprehension of an uncertain, perhaps dark, future. 
\\4en I was about to leave the hall, unnoticed I 
thought, Paul Lobe, Speaker of the Reichstag during 
the greater part of the existence of the republic, 
stepped towards me. He realized my emotion and 
the reason for it and had come to show me his under¬ 
standing and sympathy. He had been a Majority 
Socialist but had supported its left wing. Lobe 
promised me comradeship and good companionship 
in arms—and kept this promise. 

The fourth year of the German republic was to be 
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Return to the Struggle 

its most arduous. The republic had not succeeded in 
winning the confidence of European statesmen. And 
the people of the European democracies ? Absorbed 
in their own troubles, uninformed of the great changes 
the revolution had brought in Germany, unaware of 
the strong reaction that a narrow, nationalistic treat¬ 
ment of a vanquished nation must have on their 
own futures, they acquiesced in the actions of their 
governments. In addition, France had suffered, and 
on its own soil, most deeply from the madness of 
war ; the people had been told over and over, “ C'est 
rAllemagne qui patera ’’—Germany will pay for 
everything.'’ The French peasant resisted the hcmy 
burden of taxes and approved of his government's 
policy of compelling defeated Germany to shoulder 
the largest possible share of the costs of the war. 

We who sought again and again in those years to 
make the German republic a bulwark of peace and 
freedom in the heart of Europe had hardly any leisure 
for peaceful thoughts, driven as we were by the rapid 
succession of events within and without Germany. 

Early in 1923 my physician had ad\dsed me to re¬ 
turn to the mountains for a few days. No sooner had 
I arrived than ne\¥s reached me of France’s decision 
to march into the Ruhr. I returned immediately to 
Berlin. How often in those years w^as I compelled 
to recall the words of that wise and valiant woman 
of the French Revolution, Madame Roland, who had 
said that for her generation there could be no peace ; 
theirs 'was the task of carrying out the revolution. No 
less stormy was the short life of the German republic. 
But the generation whose task it was to build the 
republic had four years earlier endured all the horror 

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of modern warfare with instruments of destruction 
more powerful than could ever have been imagined 
in the time of Madame Roland. The German people 
still felt the effects of four years of hunger when they 
were plunged into new travail. 

Wkdct was the pretext employed by the'French prime 
minister, Poincare, to accomplish his long-desired 
occupation of the Ruhr? Germany had lagged in 
its payment of reparations. Only 11,700,000 tons of 
coal had been delivered instead of the 13,900,000 
demanded ; and the shipment of wood to France was 
short by 200,000 telegraph poles. This, to Poincare’s 
mathematical and extremely anti-German mind, w’-as 
sufficient cause to bring the German republic to the 
brink of ruin and throw Europe into a crisis. My 
first reaction had been : Are there any circumstances 
under which the French occupation can be avoided ? 
Ever since Poincare had become head of his govern¬ 
ment this act of aggression had to be expected. 
Therefore, I felt, the greatest effort must be made to 
give him no pretext. Precisely because the quantities 
on which Germany had defaulted were so negligible, 
it seemed to me that the impossible should be 
attempted—to deliver the consignments on time. . . . 

But now we suddenly stood before the reality of 
the occupation. There was no longer time to philo¬ 
sophize. The patience of the new nation had at last 
come to an end. 

The French soldiers marched into the district that 
might correctly be called the heart of German economy. 
The nation’s richest coal mines lay in the Ruhr. 
Were the German workers to go down into the pits 
under the prodding of foreign bayonets ? Were they 

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to perform forced labour under the eyes of a foreign 
army ? They knew they would not merely be called 
upon to make up the deficiency in ^ the reparation 
payments. They had good reason to fear that the 
military occupation was only the first step towards 
a complete separation of the industrial areas from 
Germany. It was known that Darias, not long after 
chairman of the finance committee of the French 
Chamber, had WTitten in 1922, in a secret report to 
the French government : The Lorraine iron masters 
have available twice as much iron ore as they can 
work . . . but they absolutely require . . . the coke 
of the Ruhrf^ The German steel industry could 
achieve only half of its normal production if it was 
deprived of French ore, Darias had pointed out. 

We are afraid of seeing her [Germany’s] industries 
develop on a scale which would enable her to assure 
the payment of the debts which she has acknow¬ 
ledged. But so long as we are on the right bank of 
the Rhine and are, masters of 45,000,000 tons of ore 
a year, w^e shall be in a position to play a decisive 
part in the German steel industry, demanding a con¬ 
trol of production in return. And no doubt this will 
be the solution of the future,” Darias had informed 
his government. His statement was made in connec¬ 
tion with the unlawful French occupation of the cities 
of Dtisseldorf, Ruhrort, and Duisburg, on the right 
bank of the Rhine, and it proved that the German 
provinces had been seized for a double purpose. 

We must fight—even without guns ; that w^as my 
firm conviction. There are peaceful methods which 
are uniquely the weapons of the w-orking class. If it 
is united, not a hundred thousand bayonets can force 

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productive work, especially if the government sanc¬ 
tions and supports the struggle. That was the reac¬ 
tion of the overwhelming majority of the German 
people to the Ruhr invasion. Again the working class 
stood ready to throw itself into the breach, although 
it was not easy for it fully to trust a government at 
whose head stood a representative of big industry, 
Wilhelm Cuno. Despite all these misgivings, public 
officials, white-collar employees, and the proletariat 
in the Ruhr district decided almost unanimously to 
meet the French aggression with passive resistance. 

In spite of active co-operation with this poHcy, 
misgivings hounded me from the very beginning. 
Would not the passion which the struggle entailed 
completely destroy that goal for which we had struggled 
since the foundation of the republic—the enlighten¬ 
ment of the people and the establishment of friendly „ 
relations between the two countries ? But despite this 
danger we could not allow the workers of this large 
and important district to be enslaved by foreign 
masters. We could not submit to the threatened 
separation of unoccupied Germany from its most 
important raw materials. 

From the first I w^as concerned with the problem 
of preventing the German people’s struggle for exist¬ 
ence from degenerating into an orgy of chauvinism. 
This was not easy. The French had made contact 
between the inhabitants of the occupied territory with 
the rest of Germany extremely difficult. None could 
cross the border ” without special permission from 
the military authorities. My parents still lived in 
the occupied territory, and in the year of the Ruhr 
occupation, with its increased hardships, I could visit 

194 



RetMiii to the Struggle 

them seldom and only great difficulty. It was 
altogether impossible to conceive of workers’ meetings 
and large demonstrations in the embattled area* One 
after another my friends were thrown into French 
military prisons because as high officials of the German 
republican government^ as mayors and other func¬ 
tionaries, they had refused to recognize the authority 
of the military intruders. Later they were banished 
from the Ruhr—during peacetime a foreign army 
banished Germans from their own country and from 
their official duties ! 

Under such circumstances how could we teach the 
German people that they must not hate the people 
of France ? How could we explain to them that the 
struggle had been provoked by a clique which repre¬ 
sented the great capitalist interests at the moment 
holding the majority in the French Chamber ? How 
could we tell them that the French workers wanted 
to come to an understanding with the German 
workers ? The task we set ourselves seemed hopeless. 
Soon, however, I was presented with a remarkable 
opportunity to offer proof to at least some of the Ruhr 
inhabitants of this lasting solidarity which continued 
even during the struggle. 

In the spring of the year the International Socialist 
Congress, at which the so-called Vienna International 
was reunited with the Second International, met in 
Hamburg. All the delegates were free from chau\iii- 
ism, all were deeply moved by the unanimity with 
which not only the imperialist peace treaty but the 
occupation of the Ruhr was condemned. They all 
felt strongly that the occupation violated a people's 
greatest right, the right to live in peace. The French, 

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Toni Sender 

the Belgian, and the English Socialists renewed their 
friendship with the Germans at the very moment 
when arrests and senseless shootings increased the 
bitterness in the Ruhr. I was a delegate to this 
inspiring congress, and I resolved that the people in 
the occupied territory must be given some intimation 
of this spirit of brotherhood. I approached my old 
friend Paul Faure, leader of the French Socialist party. 
During the war, while still a soldier at the front, he 
had been among the first Frenchmen to urge an early 
peace without victor or vanquished. Later, after 
being elected deputy from Le Greusot, the district 
dominated by the all-powerful munitions corporation, 
Schneider Le Greusot, he had led a fight against the 
French militarists. I asked Faure to go with me to 
Germany’s western frontier. There in the unoccupied 
territory, hard on the border of the Ruhr, I proposed 
we hold a series of public meetings for the people of 
the Ruhr. He wnuld speak in French and I would 
translate. We would overcome the obstacle of not 
being able to hire a hall by holding the meetings in 
the open country. 

Paul enthusiastically agreed. Everything had to be 
organized hastily, but our friends were so seized with 
the idea that success was assured. The meetings were 
held in an open field. One by one the people came 
across the “ border ”, dodging the patrols of the 
foreign army, risking imprisonment if they were caught, 
until at last a great crowd was gathered—much larger 
than we had expected ! Paul Faure is a great orator ; 
impassioned, he sweeps his audiences along in the 
surge of his emotions. Intuitively he knows how to 
find the correct idiom for his audience. Although 

196 



Return to the Struggle 

most of the people understood no French, they were 
carried away. When I translated his \vorcis, the 
enthusiasm mounted. Across the “ border '' were Ms 
hated countr\mien, military police, intruders, and here 
on German soil with his German brothers stood a 
Frenchman w 4 o had the courage to condemn the 
imperialist ambitions of France’s army. 

Oh, if in 1923 France had only listened to this 
voice of peace, it would not now" be trembling before 
a resurrected Pan-Germanism more aggressive, more 
unchecked than that of the Kaiser ! 

As a true internationalist, Paul Faure asked me to 
return the favour. As soon as I had time I was to go 
to France. It was summer before I could leave. The 
journey itself w^as a problem. The resistance of the 
German w^orkers to the French military authorities 
had at last resulted in French seizure of the railway 
administration. We boycotted these railw^ays exactly 
as w^e would have boycotted any attempt at strike¬ 
breaking. I had to solve the problem of getting deep 
into France without using the railways. At last even 
this was solved. A French friend took me by motor¬ 
car^ over the French frontier. In that w^ay I was also 
able to return. He did not do this without grave risk 
to himself. His friendship, like Ms courage, I shall 
never forget. 

What joy to meet again those of the old friends who 
had survived the war. Some of the very dear ones 
were gone forever—killed in battle or, hie my dear 
friend Paoli, dead from disease contracted in the 
trenches. New^ comrades, younger ones, had joined 
our old fourteenth section in Paris, They had been 
told of my pre-war activity and of my work in Ger- 

197 o 



Toni Sender 

many, and they asked me to visit them. They gave 
me a touching reception. Enthusiasm ran so high that 
upon the proposal of Dr. Oguse, an old-timer, they 
nominated me for honorary membership in the French 
Socialist party, possibly the only foreigner who has ever 
received this honour. 

I arrived in Paris shortly before the workers were 
to observe the anniversary of the murder of Jean Jaures, 
their beloved and martyred leader, the first casualty 
of the World War. With Paul-Boncour and other 
Frenchmen I was asked to address the memorial meet¬ 
ing. Paul-Boncour expressed his particular satisfaction 
in speaking from the same platform with me, a German 
Socialist who during the war years had protested against 
the slaughter and voiced a desire for peace. 

The enthusiasm among the Parisian workers and 
middle class was as tumultuous and heart-felt as that 
which Paul Faure had aroused in the German fields. 
The authorities, however, were less enraptured. The 
meeting was held on the last evening of my stay in 
Paris. Afterward I remained with a few close friends 
talking late into the night. They brought me to my 
hotel, and I was no sooner in my room than the 
telephone rang. Two o’clock in the morning ! I let 
it ring, for I suspected who might be so importunate. 
When at six o’clock that morning there was a loud 
knock on my door, I was not taken by surprise. I 
arose, dressed myself quickly, and opened the door. 
The police. They had waited the whole night below 
in the hotel. I hopefully expected that they would 
escort me over the border in a patrol w^agon and thus 
spare me the cost of the journey. The mark stood 
even then at 3,,700,000 to the dollar, and I had partly 

198 



Return to the Struggle 

to finance the journey myselfi But I was vay 
soon disappointed, as were the police. They had 
expected that my passport would not be in order and 
that they could, therefore, arrest me ; but my papers 
were absolutely valid and there was nothing with 
w^hich they could find fault. They excused themselves 
for annoying me during the night and I had to pay 
out the last of my money for the return trip. 

Conditions in Germany were gradually coming to 
a head. Day by day the misery increased in both the 
occupied and the unoccupied territory. The extremists 
of the Right demanded active resistance and com¬ 
mitted several acts of violence in the occupied territory. 
This could only hurt the German cause, which had 
aroused great s^nnpathy in large parts of the world. 
Military aggression, the unjust occupation of German 
soil in peace time, could be dealt with effectively only 
through passive resistance. These acts of sabotage 
made many of us uneasy. We were unwilling to join 
in a united front with those who, we already suspected, 
would prefer power politics to the politics of reason if 
they ever held the reins. The government did not 
stand behind the saboteurs. But as long as an un¬ 
broken front was necessary to meet the menace of 
French militarism and capitalism, we dared not disrupt 
it. 

In historic periods when every decision and act 
carries a hea\^ responsibility, a leader’s task is very 
difficult both politically and personally. A leader wffio 
wishes to be taken seriously dares not simplify problems 
for the sake of mere popularity. In that hour the fate 
of the working class could not be separated from the 
fate of the nation, however different the results of the 

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Toni Sender 

struggle might be for the industrialists and the pro¬ 
letariat. The common man in Germany bore the 
entire burden of the struggle for the Ruhr just as he 
had borne the war burden. It is he who must chiefly 
be thanked if the country was once again saved from 
dismemberment. The National Socialists who to-day 
speak so contemptuously of the fourteen years of the 
repubhc in those days had absolutely no understanding 
of Germany’s desperate struggle for existence. While 
the German workers on the Rhine, in the Ruhr, in 
all of Germany, starved and sacrificed, the National 
Socialists turned their weapons against the “ November 
criminals” as they used to term labour officials and 
democrats. It was clear to us that without national 
independence we could neither attain nor preserve 
domestic fireedom. 

This struggle for independence, forced on us fi-om 
the outside, added tremendously to the difficulty of 
clarifying our internal problems and led to an increas¬ 
ing paralysis of the domestic economy. The paper 
certificates which were called money grew into figures 
ever more astronomical. Their value was measured 
with the dollar. After my return from Paris the dollar 
had risen on the Berlin exchange to a value of more 
than seven mfflion marks. Shops began to close at 
midday because, with the sharp rise of the doUar, 
business men could no longer keep up with the rapidly 
changing prices. 

In the midst of all this unrest I was able to pay a 
short visit to my parents in the occupied territory. I 
found my mother very much disturbed. She com¬ 
plained that my father was simply giving away his 
entire stock of goods j unlike others, he refused to 

200 



Return to the Struggle 

adjust the selling price to the cost price. It had long 
been impossible to set any fixed value on the markj 
as its value changed from day to day. If my father 
continued, his large and valuable stock would soon be 
entirely squandered. I tried to con\ince him of this. 
He was astonished that I, of ail people, should express 
such ideas. Like his father before Mm, he was known 
as an upright and honourable business man, and even 
in these stormy times he would not deviate from liis 
principles. He refused to profit from tiie misery of 
the people. I neither could nor would argue any 
longer. The result, after the inflation, was what my 
mother had feared—my father had given away the 
greater part of his property. 

Undoubtedly some persons became profiteers during 
the inflation. In part, these were the speculators in 
bills of exchange and stocks. But for most of them it 
was a false profit that quickly melted away after the 
stabilization. The most spectacular profiteer was 
Hugo Stinnes. He utilized the stupid and irrespon¬ 
sible policy of the president of the Reiclisbank, Haven- 
stein, constantly to acquire new stock majorities and 
expand his concerns indiscriminately. The Reichs- 
bank lent money on time without taking into account 
the value of the mark. Thus men like Stinnes, who 
were able to go directly to the Reichsbank, could 
borrow capital when the exchange rate of the dollar 
stood at three million marks and repay their loans 
later when the dollar had risen to a hundred million 
marks. Small wonder that such a monetary policy 
contributed to the ever growing depletion of the 
Reichsbank’s gold reserve ! 

A complete stabilization of the German currency or, 
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Toni Sender 

more important, creation of a new currency could not 
be accomplished as long as the hole in the west was 
open—that is, as long as the government had to pump 
millions every day into the occupied territory to sustain 
the people whose passive resistance had led them to 
forgo their regular income. Moreover, Hugo Stinnes's 
accumulation of blocks of stocks, aided by the ReichS“ 
bank’s shortsighted policy, had to be stopped for 
economic as well as psychological reasons, Stinnes 
himself did not recognize this. From the first moment 
of his membership on the foreign affairs committee of 
the Reichstag, to which I also belonged, I felt that he 
was honestly convinced that the interests of his enter¬ 
prises were identical with the economic interests of the 
German people^ When Hugo Stinnes spoke at com¬ 
mittee meetings in his strange low whisper, members 
listened with every nerve strained. Yet it was no 
extraordinary wisdom that we heard, and the great 
respect of the majority was paid rather to the currently 
successful and daring entrepreneur than to the thought¬ 
ful statesman. A little later we were to see that even 
the entrepreneur was not so successful and that his 
huge enterprises could melt away as quickly as they 
had been accumulated. 

Hugo Stinnes opposed stabilization on the ground 
that it would injure Germany’s ability to export. It 
did not enter his mind that German goods were able 
to compete abroad only because of the underpayment 
of the German worker, which was hidden by the 
tremendous inflation figures. This lack of stabilization 
was deeply felt by the workers. I lived among them 
and daily I saw their misery increase. Towards the 
end of the struggle for the Ruhr I felt it in my own 

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body. Often I had no bread and no money wth 
which to buy it ! Yet I belonged to the high-income 
class. The Reichstag sent us our salaries through the 
post office. Before the post office could pay it out, 
the mark would again fall so low that I could just 
manage to pay my rent; nothing was left for the 
remaining living expenses. The fee for an article I 
might be asked to write, although remitted immediately 
on receipt of the manuscript, was enough when it 
arrived to buy only a postage stamp ! Without the 
help of my proletarian friends I would often have gone 
without the necessities of life, and it was very seldom 
indeed that I did not leave the table hungry. 

For the great mass of people it was no different. In 
September we had to pay 220,000,000 paper marks 
for one dollar, and gradually we began to count in 
billions. I have never been able to understand how 
the ordinary person could arrive at any conception 
of those dizzying figures. Many things became scarce, 
and again there were bread-lines before the shops. 
If a person had money in his hand, he could not rest 
until he had spent it, and that was the only thing to 
do. Money was still worth more to-day than it would 
be to-morrow, and we soon learned to calculate in 
hours. Wages were paid twice and, later, three times 
a week. Usually the worker immediately bought pro¬ 
visions for his family in the vicinity of his factory, for 
if he waited.to let his wife shop in the neighbouring 
store, the mark would again have fallen and perhaps 
they could buy nothing. 

Foreigners then in Germany could enjoy for a ridicu¬ 
lous amount luxuries such as they could never have 
afforded in their own countries. That these visitors 

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Toni Sender 

were not met with great cordiality by the starving 
Germans can surprise no one. 

In addition to these difficulties, on the pofitical side 
the nation had to bear the tremendous weight of the 
struggle for the Ruhr. In the summer the Union of 
German Industry laid down a series of outrageous con¬ 
ditions on which it would help the government. It 
offered a guarantee of 500,000,000 gold marks to be 
shared between industry and agriculture. In return 
for this, which was nothing more than a civic duty, 
it dictated its terms to the government : there was to 
be no state interference in industry ; demobilization 
decrees and the last remnants of planned economy 
(which protected both the consumer and the worker) 
were to be abandoned. It demanded also complete 
freedom in laboiir agreements, although “ in principle ” 
the eight-hour day would be upheld; and they 
demanded that industry be freed firom “ unproductive 
taxes”. Incidentally, the tax on employees’ salaries 
was deducted by the employers from the pay envelopes, 
thus making the levy as fixed as the salaries themselves. 
But the propertied classes paid their taxes many months 
after they had fallen due, so that, through the constant 
depreciation of the mark, what they paid was only a 
small fraction of the original value of the tax. 
Demands of the people for tax reforms were dis¬ 
regarded. A stronger control of foreign exchange, 
called for by the Socialists to prevent further capital 
flight, was never accomplished. 

At last the people asked themselves : would it be 
the same as it had been during the war ? Then, too, 
it was we who starved and sacrificed, while the rich, 
by bootleg means, could get everything they wanted. 

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Now that the masters of industry sought to utilize 
the nation’s misery to dictate terms to the government, 
the unrest of the people was further intensified. With 
each day the misery increased and with the mounting 
tide of discontent the social crisis sharpened, the 
elements of conflict grew. The “ Black Reichswehr ”, 
an illegal military organization under the leadership 
of Major Buchrucker, attempted a Putsch on October i 
in the Prussian fortress of Kustrin. The Putsch was 
put down and the leaders arrested, but the people 
learned of the Black Reichswehr’s existence, for the 
truth leaked out despite attempts to conceal it. Could 
passive resistance still be maintained ? 

Some of the French military authorities tried to 
arouse a separatist movement in the occupied terri¬ 
tory ; they hoped to utilize the confusion which would 
arise to effect the separation of this important Rhine¬ 
land district. Among the people there was very limited 
sympathy for this movement; its following was com¬ 
posed mainly of riffraff for whom the Rhineland people 
felt only contempt. Some among the French authori¬ 
ties, particularly those who had been in the Ruhr for 
a longer time and had a feeling for the people, realized 
that this effort was both mistaken and hopeless. One 
of their leading men frankly admitted this to me. 

Still more serious, however, were the events in 
Bavaria. Here the middle class had never been very 
strongly in favour of the republic. This dislike was 
combined with Bavaria’s traditional separatism ; its 
own particular quirk was striving after the preservation 
of “ Bavarian individuality ”. This “ Bavarian in¬ 
dividuality ” manifested itself now in the increasingly 
reactionary political recruiting of the ruling Bavarian 

205 



Toni Sender 

People’s party, the Bavarian wing of the Catholic or 
Centre party. The situation came to a head when 
the Bavarian administration named the Munich presi¬ 
dent, Kahr, as General State Commissioner and 
declared a state of siege. It amounted to an actual 
rebellion of Bavaria against the Republic. Thereupon 
the Berlin government decreed a state of siege for the 
entire nation, basing its order upon constitutional pre¬ 
rogatives which gave federal rights precedence over 
states’ rights. The exceptionalist position of Bavaria 
had to be settled. But the Bavarian State Com¬ 
mission and the Bavarian government ridiculed 
this demand and drew the leaders of the Bavarian 
Reichswehr into their rebellion. The Nazi newspaper 
Volkischer Beobackter violently attacked the President of 
the republic and the Minister of the Reichswehr. 
Thereupon the Minister of the Reichswehr announced 
the suppression of the newspaper and ordered his 
subordinate, von Lossow, the general in command of 
the Bavarian Reichswehr, to occupy its premises. 
Von Lossow refused to carry out the order, having 
no desire to quarrel with the Bavarian government. 
When the minister demanded his dismissal, von Lossow 
delivered this order to the Bavarian authorities. He 
did not retire, but the Bavarian government, instead, 
demanded the resignation of the Reichswehr Minister ! 

The republic could not re-establish its authority in 
Bavaria—^it answered the Bavarian provocations with 
declarations on paper. But it behaved quite differently 
' towards the governments of Saxony and Thiiringen. 
In these states Social Democrats and Communists 
governed in coalitions, supported by the diets, which' 
had been elected by a majority of the people. Both 

206 



Return to the Struggle 

governments wercj therefore, altogether legal, even if 
they did not please the bourgeoisie of their regions. 
The coalitions were designed as a united defence against 
the danger of fascism. I sympathized with this struggle 
and was in close touch with my Saxon friends. It 
was at that time that I first became acquainted wdth 
the Saxon prime minister, Zeigner. He was a sensitive 
man, too sensitive to be a statesman, highly cultured 
and with a real enthusiasm for the republic. The 
fact that he was a newcomer to the field of active 
politics aggravated his already complicated task. 
Given the good will of his associates, he would have 
soon overcome this drawback. His position was 
arduous and thankless. His difSculties had begun 
with the Communist members of his cabinet. But 
Zeigner had incurred the special wrath of the Mnister 
of the Reichswehr because he had made it his specific 
task to learn the truth about the Black Reichswehr 
and to fight with all his power against the existence 
of this illegal group. In Saxony, as a counter-move 
against the private army of the National Socialists, 
the “ Proletarian Hundreds ” were formed with the 
co-operation of the Saxon government. These were 
military formations of loyal republicans whose aim was 
to protect the republic from a putsch by the nationalists, 
and particularly by the Nazis. 

The republic had taken no action against the private 
army of the Bavarian National Socialists, although it 
must have known that the purpose of this group was 
to overthrow the republican regime. Now the most 
outrageous incident took place. The commanding 
ofiicer of the Saxon Reichswehr demanded the dis¬ 
solution of the Proletarian Hundreds. A violent con- 

207 



Toni Sender 

troversy followed between the republic and the Saxon 
government. The latter soon learned that though 
the republic would tolerate the Bavarian violation of 
the constitution, it would show a strong hand towards 
a proletarian government. An understanding might 
still have been possible between Saxony and the 
republic except for the clumsy and provocative action 
taken by the Minister of the Reichswehr. He 
appointed a government commissioner for Saxony 
and demanded that the elected government of Saxony 
resign. When Zeigner rightly rejected this illegal 
demand, he was arrested. Federal troops were sent 
in. The government had been elected legally and 
held the confidence of a majority of the people—but 
it was destroyed by military force. The people of 
Saxony met the oncoming Reichswehr with wild rage. 
So brutally did the army proceed that in various places 
clashes claimed a high death toll among the people. 

But Bavaria, openly rebelling against the authority 
of the republic, continued unpunished ! 

It was this that most aroused the people : severity 
against the Left, tolerance towards the Right. The 
state of siege was employed only against the working 
class, that same class which in the struggle for the 
Ruhr had borne the entire burden of maintaining the 
German republic. The workers had been thrown into 
French prisons, they had been banished from their 
country, they had been killed—more than a hundred 
—and all of them had starved no less frightfully than 
in the most desperate war years. When one looked 
about in the streets of the large cities, one saw only 
listless, emaciated figures, pale and careworn faces. 
Must the same thing always be repeated—must so 

208 



Return to the Struggle 

much devotion always be rewarded with injustice? 
Was there any reason left to struggle and sacrifice? 
Those questions agitated the entire %vorking class in 
the occupied, as in the unoccupied, territory. The 
portents of a hunger revolt were perceptible. 

In the streets of Frankfurt this terrific tension was 
already apparent. Crowds of people milled about 
without aim or purpose. It seemed as if they sensed 
that something was about to happen and they wanted 
to be there when it did. They offered a terrible picture 
of suffering. 

At this time an extra-hard blow fell. The firm 
of Kleyer, the most important metal w^orks in the 
city, closed its doors and discharged its workers. 
This gave an impetus to mass dismissals ail along 
the line, and the majority of the workers now suffered 
extreme poverty. A few days before, by agree¬ 
ment, the wages of the metal w'orkers had been fixed 
at eight billion marks an hour. What the buying 
power of this grotesque figure was no one really knew 
—the next day the mark had fallen again. Unemploy¬ 
ment increased, prices soared. The cost of living in 
Frankfurt towards the end of October was : without 
clothing, 1,458,321,000,000 marks a year ; with cloth¬ 
ing, 1,705,936,000,000 marks. Such were the astrono¬ 
mical figures in which the German people had to 
calculate. Reckoning stops at such a point, rational 
thoughts cease, and emotion takes possession. 

An explosion was due. It came in the form of 
demands for a general strike. Why did its proponents 
want to involve the entire working class in a political 
general strike ? None of them could answer this 
question—they themselves did not know. They merely 

209 



Toni Sender 

knew that the burden simply could be borne no longer. 
A valve had to be opened. They thought a general 
strike would change the entire situation. 

The Frankfurt union heads had met and had averted 
a local general strike by referring the decision to Berlin. 
A large part of the workers refused to abide by this 
decision. Excitement rose higher, and the workers 
decided immediately to call together all the shop 
stewards in the city. The workers from the factories 
themselves would decide. Neither party nor union 
leadership was consulted. I learned of this decision 
and sought out the political leaders, the industrial 
leaders, all those who held high positions in the 
administration. I pleaded with them, “ Let us go to 
the meeting this evening. Perhaps our efforts will be 
in vain, but we hold our authority only for the purpose 
of using it in such decisive hours. Let us try to save 
the workers from injuring themselves.” The plea was 
rejected by everyone : “ This evening’s meeting is a 
mad affair. We wiU have nothing to do with it.” 

What could be done? I decided to go. I felt a 
duty to point out to the workers the economic con¬ 
sequences of a strike. At this moment a general strike 
would be welcomed by the employers. Until now 
the factories had been able, to a large extent, to manu¬ 
facture for export. But now, through the tremendous 
rise in prices, the export trade was practically cut off. 
Domestic buying power was also very low. A general 
strike would only permit the industrialists to free them¬ 
selves from their contractual corrunitments. During 
this period there were still laws extending to workers’ 
protection against dismissal. A strike would enable 
the employers to evade their legal responsibilities 

210 



Return to the Struggle 

towards discharged workers. Later, when they rehired, 
they would seek out those workers w'ho -were most 
docile. Thus they could rid themselves of the older, 
more experienced shop stewards who had insisted too 
strongly on fighting for the rights of the working class. 

I "dared not be silent—I had to try at least to raise 
a voice of reason at the meeting. As I approached 
the People’s Centre, where the meeting had been 
called, I could see what aw'aited me. Thousands, in¬ 
flamed, aroused, forced their way into the building. 
Only because they all knew me could I succeed in 
getting into the hall. The balconies were completely 
filled with the unemployed. In the corridors of the 
building the masses crowded, pushing and shoving. 
The air was charged with electricity. 

I asked to be permitted to speak first. A glance 
around the hall had convinced me that an appeal to 
reason would miscarry. 

I said to the workers that they could count on me 
tmder all circumstances, I would never desert them. 
But I pointed out the economic situation and the 
service which they were unwarily on the point of per¬ 
forming for the industrialists. I could go no further. 
An uproar filled the hall. The most excited would 
not listen to me any longer—they would listen to no 
one who did not agree with them about the general 
strike. At last a Communist called upon his party 
comrades to hear me quietly, for, he said, I had always 
served the working class faithfully. Even if they did 
not agree with me, they ought, nevertheless, to listen 
to my arguments. 

That was better than I had expected. Meanwhile, 
however, a similar meeting was being held in the 

2II 



Toni Sender 

vicinity. Reports of my speech were given there. It 
was answered by demands from several extremists that 
I be hanged. 

When I saw that it was impossible to obtain the 
complete abandonment of the general strike, I tried 
to save the situation and protect the workers from too 
great harm. I asked them why they wanted to strike, 
what the goal was for which they were determined to 
struggle. There was no clear answer. It was a revolt 
against hunger, against the injustice of the disparate 
treatment of the Right and the Left, against the growth 
of reaction, and particularly against the entry of the 
army into Saxony. 

I said that if the Saxons themselves wanted to fight 
and w^ould appeal to our soHdarity, we would naturally 
be ready to join them. But Frankfurt, alone and 
isolated, could not carry on a general strike against 
the entry of the Reichswehr into Saxony. 

After the advocates of the general strike had un¬ 
mistakably shown that they had no clear idea of a goal, 
I made a last determined attempt to save the situation. 
I proposed that a limited twenty-four hour—at the 
most, forty-eight hour—demonstration strike be called, 
after which the workers would again take up their 
tools. I counselled them not to include further demands 
unless similar actions were decided upon in Saxony 
or the rest of Germany. My friends in the audience 
were delighted with this solution. Such a strike could 
not be lost and would save the situation. Since it 
would be intended only as a demonstration and a 
warning, it would not have to be pursued to a victorious 
end. A one- or two-day strike demanded no support 
from the union treasuries. Such support could not be 

212 



Return to the Struggle 

counted upon in any case, for the complete ruin of 
the German currency as a result of the struggle for 
the Ruhr had emptied the best-filled union treasuries. 
And without financial assistance the starving workers 
could not hold out long. 

I discussed this proposal, which had struck a sym¬ 
pathetic response among part of the audience, with 
the Communists. My proposals fell on deaf ears. 
They wanted their general strike without any concern 
for the consequences. All my efforts were in vain. 
Outside on the streets thousands of the depression 
victims impatiently awaited the outcome, threatening 
to storm the building unless a general strike were 
decided upon. 

A committee of action was formed to w^hich I was 
elected. That night we held a conference—but every¬ 
thing was wrecked by the obstinacy of the Com¬ 
munists. The unions opposed a general strike ^ on 
principle, but they were ready to take part in a limited 
demonstration strike in order to save the situation 
for the workers. The unions were alienated by the 
behaviour of the Communists, and on the next day 
only a partial strike began. It showed that the Com¬ 
munists influenced a large part of the unemployed, 
but only a small part of the employed. After two days 
it was decided to resume work. The result was what 
I had feared—a terrible defeat for the workers. In 
later years many Frankfurt workers reminded me of 
this episode—regretting that my ad\ice had not then 
been taken, for, if it had, many a key position lost 
by the defeat of the general strike would have been 
saved. Countless thousands starved for months before 
they were re-employed. 

213 P 



Toni Sender 

Immediately after the clearing up of the situation 
in Frankfurt my promise to the people was discharged. 
Obeying the request of my Saxon friends, I left for 
the occupied section of Saxony. Here, too, they 
were considering a general strike. But here they 
had a clear aim : to restore legality, violated by the 
entry of the Reichswehr. Since the action had not 
arisen spontaneously out of the will of the masses, I 
again counselled a limited strike. It impressed me that 
here, in the midst of the events which had stirred the 
temper of Frankfurt so powerfully, the people w^ere 
so much wiser although there was no lack of provoca¬ 
tion. Clashes with the army were many. Thus in 
Freiberg, when people on the street did not immedi¬ 
ately obey the command to return to their homes, 
they had been shot at by the Reichswehr and twenty- 
three dead and thirty-one wounded had been left 
lying on the street. The strike in Saxony was only of 
short duration, since a new legal government had 
meanwhile been organized in the Saxon diet. This 
laid a basis for constitutionalism and adjustment of 
the dispute with Berlin. 

The struggle for the Ruhr had at last to come to 
an end. It had proved that even an unarmed people 
could in their despair still grasp at means of defence, 
that force alone could not keep the wheels of industry 
turning. But at what a heavy sacrifice. . . . 

The final episode in the struggle for the Ruhr 
once again made clear who were the true patriots 
among the people. The French general, Degoutte, 
had not attempted to negotiate with the German 
government for the cessation of the policy of passive 
resistance. His ridiculous pretext was that the govern- 

214 



Return to the Struggle 

ment would not cease its aid to the unemployed of 
the Ruhr. As if one could simply abandon tens of 
thousands to naked misery ! Degoutte turned to the 
industrialists, Stinnes, Vogler, Klockner, and Otto 
Wolff—all men with whom Adolf Hitler later was to 
be on the best of terms. The German government 
and its people first learned from Paris despatches that 
in these direct negotiations Hugo Stinnes had sought 
the co-operation of the French generals to force the 
German miners to accept a working day of ten hours 
above ground with eight and one-half hours for 
underground work. 

That was how industry repaid the working class 
which in the darkest hours of the German republic 
had suffered, starved, and sacrificed every^thing for 
German independence. At the end of the Ruhr 
struggle, in an appeal to the German people, the govern¬ 
ment stated that 180,000 Germans had been exhed 
from their homes by the French army of occupation, 
that hundreds had been imprisoned and more than 
a hundred killed. But the most critical result of 
the occupation w^as the complete ruin of the German 
currency, and through this the total expropriation of 
the lower middle class. These people would not 
admit that they had been declassed, could not reconcile 
themselves to becoming proletarians. They became 
the first recruits when the wave of Nazism swept over 
Germany. They believed the Nazi promises because 
they could no longer believe in themselves. 

In 1923 the French did everything to create for 
themselves the terrible menace of 1939. 


215 



X 

YEARS IN THE REICHSTAG 


The Ruhr struggle, with all it entailed, the measures 
connected with its liquidation and the stabilization of 
the German currency, had exacted from the labour¬ 
ing classes—including the white-collar workers—the 
heaviest sacrifices. They had to pay, as usual, the 
costs of maintaining Germany’s integrity. Wasn’t 
it exactly as in the war? An understandable dis¬ 
content was rising. Our parliamentary group de¬ 
manded amendment of some of the government 
decrees, the allegation to some extent of labour’s 
burden. Other groups presented their demands. 
The government, headed by the Catholic, Marx, 
refused to support such changes, and the Reichstag 
was dissolved in the spring of 1924, 

It was at that time that an invitation to come to 
Belgium reached me. Should I accept it despite the 
fact that the nomination of candidates for the new 
Reichstag was nearing ? The selection of candidates 
was comphcated somewhat as a result of the reunion 
of the two Socialist parties. However, I concluded 
that they knew my record. If they wanted me back 
in the Reichstag, they could nominate me in my 
absence. If they didn’t want me, I should not impose 
myself on them. 


216 



Tears in the Reichstag 

I went to Antwerp, in the Flemish-speaking part of 
Belgium, where my oldest sister lived. My friends of 
the labour movement gave me a warm reception, 
Willem Eekelers, chief editor of the labour daily, 
whom I had met before at the metal workers' conven¬ 
tions, where he was a delegate, did eveiything to make 
my sojourn as agreeable as possible and at the same 
time useful for the labour movement. Eekelers, 
descendant of a peasant family and of hea\y stature, 
is a very good orator. He had enjoyed little educa¬ 
tion in his childhood but had since used all his spare 
time to fill the gap. He was the recognized labour 
leader of his province, and later he became a member 
of the Chamber and a successful alderman in charge 
of Antwerp's educational system. It was Eekelers 
who introduced me to a circle of artists, painters, 
and musicians. From them I learned to look at the 
dreamy, grey Flemish landscape wth more open 
eyes and to recognize its singular charm. We people 
of the mountain regions find it difficult to recognize 
the beauty of the lowlands, especially when the plain 
is so often wrapped in fog as in the Flemish country. 
But living, even for a short time, with the people of this 
region is to be captured by the warmth of their spirit. 
They have a deep love for their land and, in contrast 
with the simple, calm, landscape, are of a cheerful, gay 
temper-—people who deeply enjoy life in all its phases. 

De Bom, my chaperon, editor of a newspaper and 
a former librarian, took me to the typical old Flemish 
home of the painter I. Opsomer in Liers, a picturesque 
little medieval town. Once there we also went to 
see Felix Timmermans, the peasant witer whose 
home was crowded with a great collection of old- 

"217 



Toni Sender 

fashioned knick-knacks. We were always accompanied 
by a number of young painters, encouraged and 
patronized by young-old De Bom. On one of our 
trips we visited in Hs castle another of De Bom’s 
friends, Jef van Hof, the musician and composer. 
We became good friends, and a few years later Jef 
and De Bom came to see me in my little house in 
Dresden and again we spent happy hours together. 
That night in Flanders Jef sat at the piano and let 
his imagination roam. Of tail, lean stature, this 
man with the glowing eyes and great love of music 
seemed to fit well into his surroundings—people called 
his home the spook” castle. All these people in 
a way were rebels—enthusiastic Flemings who had 
revolted against the domination of the Walloons in 
this bilingual Belgian homeland, 

Eekelers also wanted me to meet his friends, the 
Flemish w^orkers. One evening he came to see me 
and said : 

Toni, I have arranged a series of meetings and 
you must come with me and address the audiences. 
You may speak in German. They will understand 
you. They learned the language during the occupa¬ 
tion, if they did not know it before. You will be the 
first German since the w^ar to address them. Will 
you come with me ? ” 

‘‘ Do you really think w^e can risk it, Willem ? ” 
I replied. I have been driving around the country 
for several days and eveiywvhere I have seen the 
ghastly ruins of homes, barns, and factories destroyed 
by German shells and grenades. People cannot have 
forgotten so soon what they suffered under German 
occupation and I do not want to hurt their feelings.” 

218 



Tears in the Reichstag 

But you were not responsible for Willem 
retorted. “ Our workers have remained interna¬ 
tionalists in spite of all their suffering. Please do 
come.'’ 

I could not refuse himj nor did I have cause to 
regret it. In these densely populated towns and 
villages, men and w^omen, workers and farmers, 
flocked into the meeting halls—veiy" plain places, 
most of them adjoining a public house. They came 
in their simple clothes, the w^omen without hats, 
their faces still showing traces of suffering and priva¬ 
tion. But far from haring become hardened by 
what they had endured, they were the most receptive 
and sympathetic audience that a speaker could desire. 
Such an enthusiastic reception I certainly could 
not have expected. No, these people did not hate, 
despite their sad experience with the armies of my 
country. They wanted understanding and friendship, 
even with the enemy ” of yesterday. 

How much did I need such encouragement after 
the sad realization of the lack of understanding on 
..the part of the Allied statesmen for the young German 
republic. 

While I was still in Belgium, Robert wrote me 
that both of us had been renominated as candidates 
for the Frankfurt district. But at the same time 
my friends in Dresden, Saxony, asked me if I were 
ready to be their candidate for the Reichstag. They 
wished to replace the elderly, very moderate man, 
who had hitherto represented them, vdth a younger, 
more progressive person. I accepted both nomina¬ 
tions. You could do that in the German republic, 
for residence in the constituency was not required. 

219 



Toni Sender 

Of course, I had to rush home to start the campaign. 
This time I had to campaign in two constituencies, 
besides addressing a number of meetings in other 
cities to which I was imdted. Though our party 
suffered hea\^ losses, I was elected in both con¬ 
stituencies, Frankfurt and Dresden. I had to choose 
between the two seats and I finally decided to become 
a member of the Reichstag for Dresden. That city 
’^vould confront me \sdth a new task and probably 
new difficulties and, therefore, an opportunity for 
new experiences. I learned to like the people of 
my new surroundings, so different from the cheerful 
population of the Rhine and Main valleys to which 
I was accustomed. But I also had to combat there 
demagogues whose radicalism was only a vehicle of 
careerism. 

The Reichstag elected in May, 1924, was ^short¬ 
lived. Its only work consisted in the adoption of 
the Dawes Plan, the bills containing new conditions 
for settlement of the reparations and other imposi¬ 
tions of the Versahles Treaty. These bills were 
finally adopted with the votes of the ^ German 
Nationalists [Deutschnationale), who had vigorously 
campaigned against these laws and against a policy 
of understanding. They finally Traded the votes of 
half of their members for the promise of Stresemann’s 
People’s party that it would insist on the formation 
of a government with the participation of the 
Nationalists. Prime Minister Marx was unwilling to 
submit to the conditions of this horse trade, so the 
Reichstag was dissolved, and on December 7 
the second general elections of 1924. 

It was interesting to realize how much the elections 
220 



Tears in the Reichstag 

reflected the fact that economic misery led to increased 
influence for the extremist parties, while improved 
business activity, together with some improvement 
in international relations, had the result of weakening 
them. 



NL 4 Y 4, 1924 



Votes 

Members Elected 

Socialists 

6,014,372 

100 

Communists 

3.-746,643 

62 

Nazis 

1,924,018 

32 

Others 

17,703,544 

278 


DECEMBER 7, 1924 



Votes 

Members Elected 

Socialists 

7,880,058 

131 

Communists 

2,708,176 

45 

Nazis 

908,087 

14 

Others 

18,786,676 

3*23 


Nazis and Communists had each lost more than a 
million votes within seven months, while the Socialists 
had gained almost two million. But at the same 
time the German Nationalists came back somewhat 
stronger with 103 members instead of 96. They 
promptly insisted upon cashing in their proceeds of 
the horse trade for ministerial positions. 

A new era for the German republic began in 1925. 
The government of Dr. Hans Luther, later Nazi 
ambassador in Washington, was based on a pact 
between heav>^ industry, represented by the People’s 
party, and the Junkers, the big agrarian property 
owners, whose parliamentary delegates were in the 
German Nationalist party. Of course, it w'as not pure 
idealism that bound these two parties together but 
rather pure material interest. It was the year that 

221 



Toni Sender 

opened TOth a victory for reaction in the election of 
Paul von Hindenburg as President. Naturally, he 
was the candidate of the Right. He was elected only 
on a second ballot after none of the candidates in the 
first election had obtained a majority. Hindenburg’s 
election in the second poll was made possible by the 
attitude of the Communists, who maintained the 
candidacy of Ernst Thalmann, though it was absolutely 
hopeless. They took sufficient votes from the republi¬ 
can candidate, the Catholic Wilhelm Marx, to defeat 
him. The second vote stood thus : Hindenburg, 
14,655,000 ; Marx, 13,751, 615 ; Thalmann, 1,931,151. 

This election was to be more decisive than most 
people could then foresee. The alliance between 
heavy industry and the wealthy landowners was to 
have serious consequences. In 1925 Germany had 
regained the liberty to deal with tariffs and trade 
policy which had been taken away from her by the 
Versailles Treaty. What use the Reichstag would 
make of this regained right would be decisive for the 
welfare of the German masses and for Germany’s 
future. I had taken an early interest in the problem 
and had prepared for it by study and investigation. 
It became my conviction that Germany’s geographical 
and economic position predestined her to become the 
champion of free trade. A nation with a very highly 
developed industrial machinery, lacking most of the 
indispensable raw materials could guarantee a richer 
life to its people only by fighting successfully to remove 
the many obstacles to a free exchange of goods between 
the nations, especially the new states that had been 
created after the war. It did not escape me that 
some special interests could profit, at least for a certain 

222 



Years in the Reichstag 

length of time, from a high tariff, but it had never 
occurred to me that a member of the Reichstag could 
justifiably defend such private interests as against 
those of the nation as a whole. 

I followed with close attention the scientific economic 
discussions which preceded the parliamentary debate. 
Many of us collaborated in the committee of experts 
set up by the Reichstag. It developed that, together 
with my political associates, I could fully agree wth 
the recognized agrarian scientists like Professor Aerebo 
and Professor Bering. They were strongly opposed 
to a high grain tariff, the levy that was to become 
the cornerstone of the entire system. Although 
very thorough research work was accomplished in, 
these debates, the deputies who later made the 
decisions took little notice of the proceedings. Most 
interested and attentive were the labour parties and 
some representatives of small peasant groups. 

During our researches and while we were assem¬ 
bling scientifically sound data, other negotiations had 
been going on behind the scenes which seemed to 
interest the gentlemen of the Right much more. 
The small farmers were not imdted to them. The 
reason for this I had an opportunity to explain later 
in the Reichstag. Only one tenth of the German 
agrarians, the Junkers, were interested in high grain 
prices, while nine tenths of them, the medium and 
smaller farmers, had to buy grain and therefore 
wanted low grain prices. The famous scientist Lujo 
Brentano had estimated that the cost to the German 
nation of the newly proposed high grain duties w^ould 
be about one billion marks. The main burden would 
..have to be borne by the masses of the people in the 

223 



Toni Sender 

form of Hglier bread prices. When the government 
of Dr. Luther finally brought its bill before the 
Reichstagj the deal between big business and big 
agrarians had already been completed—one group 
promised the other to vote for their. tariffs if they 
practised reciprocity. 

I was one of two speakers charged by the Social 
Democratic group in the Reichstag to present its 
point of view. My work in economic legislation was 
shaped by these aims : the prosperity of the entire 
national economy, closer co-operation among all 
European states, and bridging of the gap between 
the workers and the middle classes, especially the 
farmers. I could not see why there should remain 
the old antagonism between worker and farmer, 
between city and country, which enlisted most of 
the farmers in the ranks of reaction—to their own 
detriment and that of the republic. I was prepared 
to make the utmost effort to bring about a more 
natural alignment of the component parts of the 
nation. Could it not be demonstrated that the farmers' 
interests in the past had always run parallel to those 
of the labourer ? There was the fact that the annual 
income of the farmers showed the same upward or 
downward tendencies as that of the workers. 

In my address to the house I urged that Europe's 
welfare required the creation of larger, more efficient 
markets, which could be accomplished only if the 
European nations worked towards becoming an 
economic unit. There should be no economic warfare 
between European peoples—the success of every 
country should depend upon its ability and the value 
of its achievements. The government's weak justifica- 

224 


Tears in the Reichstag 

tion of its bill consisted of reproaches to other nations 
for having built up high tariff wails. 

'' But if you reproach the other states for their 
erection of obstacles to the necessary^ world tradCj 
how can you rectify their mistakes by committing a 
similar one with full knowledge of its iniquities"? '' 
I asked. How can you compare Germany’s economic 
position with its need of importing raw material, 
which must be paid for by at least a corresponding 
amount of exports—how compare us with other 
nations possessing richer resources ? You say you 
create tMs high tariff only as an instrument for 
negotiating trade treaties with other nations. Why 
did you then demand that the .grain tariff remain 
separate and fixed ? Industry and agriculture, in 
their secret alliance for Iiigher tariffs, will succeed 
only in mutually increasing their cost of production. 
There was never a time when our economy was more 
in need of a fresh current of the air of foreign com¬ 
petition. 

How can a country like Germany ever dream 
of autarchy? The full character of your economic 
policy is shown in the fact that at the same moment 
that you are demanding new high tariff w^alis the 
gentlemen of the German Association of Manufacturers 
send a demand that the government resist w^age 
increases. How can you bring prosperity by .first 
increasing the cost of living and then keeping down 
the purchasing power of the masses ? 

Through having continued in close contact with 
developments in the steel and metal industiy^ I had 
obtained knowledge of secret negotiations between 
the German iron cartel, the French iron producers, 

225 



Toni Sender 

and those of other continental countries, negotia¬ 
tions based on a high German iron tariff which had 
not even been discussed, much less voted, by the 
Reichstag. If such negotiations were necessary, they 
should of course have been conducted by the govern¬ 
ment and with the knowledge and control of the 
democratic representatives of the people. The obvious 
assumption of these parleys was that the high iron 
tariff would not be lowered by the government in 
trade treaty negotiations. The grain tariff on one 
side and the iron tariff on the other were the corner¬ 
stones of the entire bill—small but powerful groups 
of economic royalists demanded both forms of pro¬ 
tection. 

I accused the government of having surrendered 
the prerogative of negotiations and asked if it were 
true that they had lent aid to the manmuvre of the 
steel cartel to form a Eimopean steel trust at the 
expense of the consumers. This strategy was devised 
so that the German steel trust might take certain 
limited quantities of iron from abroad at a reduced 
tariff on condition that the entire quantity would be 
delivered exclusively to the German steel trust. Thus 
the foreign producers would have no direct access to 
the German market, while the price for domestic steel 
could be manipulated by the German trust magnates. 
They knew they could in this way maintain an 
artificially high price for the raw material in Germany, 
which would be damaging to the export interests 
of the German machine industry. The latter’s secret 
acquiescence was purchased by promising them 
certain consolation payments for the materials used 
in the execution of export orders. I strongly opposed 

226 



Tears in the Reichstas 

such dumping on foreign markets and accused the 
government of ha\dng joined in a conspiracy to 
transform the tariff on steel and iron into a '' cartel 
revenue ” ! Something was wrong in the nation 
if private business was to be permitted to rule the 
government ! 

Although later developments proved my accusa¬ 
tions to be justified, the government of the profiteers 
did not divulge any of the \dtal information to the 
house. My political colleagues, aware that this was 
a decisive phase in German history^, felt impelled to 
do their utmost to prevent the republic from launch¬ 
ing on a disastrous new course. This course consisted 
of an attempt to transform a social republic into 
one dominated by economic royalists. The alliance 
between the barons of the wheat fields and those 
of steel, each group granting the other economic 
privileges at the expense of the masses, promised 
to be translated, once the moment seemed opportune, 
into pohtical power far superior to the number of 
people these two groups represented. Of course, we 
still believed in human reason and therefore ma rie 
every effort by argument and a sober, well-docu¬ 
mented presentation of facts to comince those of 
our opponents who did not belong to either of the 
conspiring groups. Every member of our parlia¬ 
mentary group was called on to collaborate. And 
everyone did. Long before the discussion started, we 
had appointed a special staff of research workers 
to investigate the fundamentals of the problems 
and to examine every aspect of the proposed new' 
tarijBF. 

My friend Dr. Rudolf Breitscheid was charged 
227 



Toni Sender 

with organizing the work in the committee as far 
as the tariff on industrial materials was concerned, 
while the organization of the debate on all agricul¬ 
tural tariffs was entrusted to me. It was an excellent 
collaboration. Breitscheid, a very tall, slender person, 
of handsome and distinguished appearance, was the 
chairman of our parliamentary group. He is highly 
intelligent and was the best debater in the house. 
Free from any false pride, he was a good comrade 
and friend. For a political leader in a country 
like Germany, however, he was somewhat too sen¬ 
sitive. In the tariff fight we both worked very hard 
to organize our departments, meeting with great 
zeal and co-operation from the other Socialists. We 
saw to it that each deputy received all the necessary 
information and documents pertaining to the aspect 
of the tariff he was to discuss. It was feverish work, 
but enthusiasm ran high. Not satisfied with the 
material obtained by our research office, many of 
our colleagues made thorough investigations for them¬ 
selves. 

The small Democratic group and the Communists 
supported our fight, and often we gave them our 
research material. But even our combined efforts 
could not bring about a real discussion. The parties 
of the government coalition, the Nationalists, the 
People’s party, and the Catholics, had made a pact 
behind the scenes, and in order to carry it through 
without a hitch their deputies were forbidden to enter 
into discussion with us. They did not enjoy the right 
to become convinced by our arguments ; they could 
only follow blindly. C)nly government officials had 
the sad task of defending the proposed tariff and 

228 



Tears in the Reichstag 

of attempting to refute our arguments, a job at 
which they were not too successful. 

Many representatives of the government parties, 
the more intelligent and more decent among them, 
came to me during the debates to express their 
appreciation of our objective and highly valuable 
work and their regret that they came wdth their 
hands bound. The coalition parties were in a great 
hurry—they wanted to bring their harvest into the 
barn before the Reichstag’s summer vacation began. 
They therefore forced us to work intensely all day 
and late into the night, they themselves meanwhile 
remaining completely idle. They thus put such a 
strain on us that many an evening when I came 
home late I asked my brother to go with me to 
Luna Park, an amusement centre in Berlin. There 
I obtained a httle relaxation that enabled me to 
resume the fight the next morning with fresh strength. 
During the previous years a fine understanding had 
developed between my brother and me. His political 
views had become similar to mine and w-e spent 
some infrequent free hours together. 

: All our endeavours in the Reichstag to co.n\iiice 
some of the coalition members of the injuriousness 
of the bill proved to be without avail. Almost 
nothing could be altered in the bill. WTiat did it 
avail us that we had all the economists of repute 
on our side ? So eager w’-ere the coalition parties 
to gather the fruit of their pact that they curtailed 
the right of free discussion in the plenary" session 
and prevented us from arousing the much-needed 
interest of the public. It was the first attack on 
; parliamentarism in the German republic, and it 

229 ft 



Tofti Sender 

was pushed by the same forces which were'later to 
become the financiers of the fascist movement. 

One man who then stood on our side later became 
one of the most ardent Nazi aides, the originator of 
regimented foreign trade and of barter agreements. 
I refer to Dr. Hjalmar Schacht. He did not always 
have his present contempt for Socialists and Jews. 
I first met Mm towards the end of the inflation period. 
Together with a Reichstag colleague, S. Aufhauser, 
I was in\ited to the house of a German industrialist 
for the specific purpose of meeting Schacht. He 
was then an aspirant for the position of president 
of the Reichsbank and he needed labour support. 
In November, 1938, I read a speech this Hjalmar 
Schacht made before the Nazi German Academy’s 
Economic Council, a speech which Otto D. Tolischus 
of the New York Times says was “ filled with ironic 
references to the antiquated pre-war ideas dominating 
the economic and trade policies of the United States 
Immediately there became alive in my memory the 
Hjalmar Schacht who in Germany’s democratic days 
used eagerly to profess his loyalty to these anti¬ 
quated ideas Back in 1925 he did his best to 
comdnce Herr Aufhauser and me of Ms deep demo¬ 
cratic convictions—without, however, making a favour¬ 
able impression on us. Neither of us w^as responsible 
for the fact that his ambition was realized and that 
he became president of the Reichsbank. During 
those critical months of 1925 he still favoured re¬ 
ciprocal trade treaties and the most-favoured-nation 
clause, the system of Secretary of State CordeU Hull, 
wMch Schacht scoffs at now. Before Reichstag com¬ 
mittees, where I had asked to have him appear as 

230 



Tears in the Reichstag 

an expert^ lie gave testimony in favour of this system. 
Of course the Nazi was not yet influential in Ger¬ 
many. . . . However, even Dr. Schacht's spine has 
not proved sufficiently flexible for Nazi purposes, 
and now apparently he lias lost favour with Ms new 
masters. 

As long as democracy still ruled Germany, the 
collaboration between men and women members of 
the Reichstag was on the whole a satisfactory one. 
Indeed we w^omen were supposed to deal, in the 
first instance, with women’s problems and those 
concerning the family, cMld care, and social legis¬ 
lation. There can be no doubt that in these fields 
the German republic had the most progressive and 
most elaborate legislation. That accomplishment must 
be attributed to the intelligent and assiduous work 
of women Reichstag members. I, however, cannot 
take too much credit for it. Although I realized 
that it was my duty to participate in the solution 
.of these problems, my special interest w^as in the 
economic field and in foreign affairs. Here it proved 
to be much harder for a woman to attain recognition. 
Nevertheless, I was appointed a member of the 
economics committee and also of the committee on 
foreign affairs and remained at those posts until 
the end of the republic. I had sufficient opportunity 
to collaborate in interesting and important le,gisiative 
work because I was not afraid of intense work and 
never came to a committee meeting unprepared. 
Here oratorical gifts were a nuisance—^knowledge 
and ability counted. Although I have no special 
cause for complaint, I nevertheless sum up thus my 
experience as a woman member of a parliament: 

231 



Toni Sender 

A woman must make a greater effort, must show 
more efficiency than a man in order to be recognized 
as an equal. Once, however, her ability is recognized 
and acknowledged, one can forget about difference 
of sex. 

Our parliamentary group frequently delegated me 
to lead in debate, to answer and refute the arguments 
of pre\ious speakers, cabinet ministers or Reichstag 
members. It happened that I often clashed with 
other deputies—but these clashes never led to per¬ 
sonal vilification or diminution of reciprocal respect. 
On the contrar}?*, one gained respect for a colleague 
who had a w^ell-founded opinion and one enjoyed 
open debate which could be useful to both sides. It 
often gave me pleasure and inspiration to talk pri¬ 
vately with the very witty and spirited Herr von 
Raumer, a member of the People’s party, a capitalist 
of the electric industry, and a man of great culture. 
He had been for some time a cabinet minister and 
had met with resistance in his own group. I like 
to remember the many talks we had in the Reichstag 
lobby and the sarcastic remarks of this intelligent 
representative of capitalist interests. Although it 
scarcely ever happened that we could agree, we 
both gained from discussions that were kept on a 
high level of objectivity. 

A similar relationship existed with the Minister 
of Labour, the Catholic Dr. Brauns. A Rhinelander 
and a priest, qualities expressed in his rather cor¬ 
pulent but cheerful appearance, he was one of the 
most able ministers of the republic. He lived through 
many cabinets of the Centre as weU as of the Right, 
and was often severely criticized by us. But in 

232 



Tears in the Reichstag 

spite of his rather conservative political views, he was 
a genuine friend of labour. And in personal talks 
with me he revealed how he had been asked to 
settle labour conflicts while the persons who had 
approached him privately blamed him publicly for 
doing so. The Cathohc m^embers of the Reichstag, 
priests or laymen, certainly included the most witty 
and gay companions, and this applies especially to 
the Rhinelanders among them. The President of 
the Reichstag for most of our repubhcan years was 
the Socialist, Paul Lobe. From time to time he 
arranged receptions in the president’s palace for 
members of the house and well-known personalities 
of the literary, diplomatic, and artistic world. The 
Catholics generally were among the merriest of com¬ 
panions, inexhaustible in stories of “ Tunnes ”, a 
legendary humorous character of Cologne. 

But not all the guests of the president’s palace 
were so easily amused. Paul Lobe’s worry was the 
entertainment of President Paul von Hindenburg, 
who attended a few of these evenings. 

“ My dear friend,” Lobe would ask me, “ you 
must help me again to-night. Will you be kin d 
enough to entertain the old gentleman for half an 
hour or so ? ” 

Lobe w'as such a kindly, amiable host that it was 
impossible to refuse him. 

However, I objected : “ You know, Paul, I have 
not had any military service. I was not in the 
trenches during the war and am no devotee of himting. 
And you know that that exhausts all possible topics 
of conversation in this case.” 

Nevertheless, I usually agreed. I assure you it 
233 



Toni Sender 

was no easy job ! I remember one evening when 
I was at my assignment and had discussed with the 
President topics more interesting to him than to 
me. Searching for more small talk, I tried to interest 
him in my desire to take a trip around the world. 
I told him of some ideas I had in mind and of the 
exorbitant cost of such an enterprise. 

“ Couldn’t you tell me a way to reahze that dream 
without too much expense ? ” I asked President von 
Hindenburg. 

The old gentleman, in keeping with the jovial spirit 
of the occasion, retorted : 

“ Certainly I can. You go around the world with 
a training ship of our navy.” 

“ In what capacity could I go ? ” I was curious to 
know. 

“ In the rank of an ordinary seaman, Ldchtma- 
iroseT he answered. 

“ Would you have me freed of severe discipline, 
and let me go on shore whenever I hked ? ” 

That, however, was too much frivolity for the 
President’s soldierly mind, and he replied : 

“ No, you caimot possibly break disciphne ! ” 

Laughter all around us. One of the Nationalist 
deputies tried to take a snapshot of the old gentle¬ 
man sitting on a sofa Avith a woman Socialist. 

In later years, of course, the President did not 
attend any more of these evenings, and once Goring 
had become President of the Reichstag, all social life 
and entertainment were ended. To meet with people 
of all creeds presupposes a degree of culture unknown 
to Nazis. 

Soon after the reunion of the two Socialist parties 
234 



Tears in the Reichstag 

a programme committee was nominated to work out 
a new party platform, adapted to the needs of the 
new times without neglecting the genuine values of 
the socialist philosophy. I became a member of 
this committee and was made its secretary. That 
gave me the task of formulating many of the para¬ 
graphs of the new programme, utilizing the results of 
the preceding debates. 

The hardest fight took place at the beginning of 
our work when the general principles of the plat¬ 
form w^^ere being discussed. Friedrich Stampfer, chief 
editor of the Vorwarts^ together ^^vith Dr. Max 'Quarck, 
former Reichstag member from Frankfurt, defended 
with passion the point of \dew that, now that we 
had a republic in Germany, only reformistic methods 
had to be emisaged—the time for revolutionary 
means had passed for good. I opposed them strongly 
and was supported by Dr. Rudolf Hiiferding and 
Dr. Adolf Braun. I argued : 

If the social change can be accomplished by 
peaceful reforms, everybody will ’welcome it. How¬ 
ever, this does not depend exclusively on our good 
intention. Will the forces of reaction accept these 
changes ? Or must we not also be prepared to see 
them use 'violence in a counter-revolution to stop 
progress, to suppress democracy, and forcC' us again 
into revolutionary methods ? We have to be pre¬ 
pared for both eventualities—the reformist as wel as 
the revolutionary—and show the youth that is ready 
to follow us the resoluteness of our will to build a 
new world."’ 

The fight w^nt on during several sessions and 
finally both Stampfer and Dr. Quarck stayed away 

235, 



Toni Sender 

from the committeCj whose majority sided with us. 
J^ater it was to become plain that my concept was 
only too thoroughly justified. However, practice did 
not follow suit. We were victorious in the com¬ 
mittee—the other side won in practical politics, and 
the nation had to pay the price for this discrepancy. 

Since my youth it had been my belief that you can 
understand life only when you know the world beyond 
the borders of your own country. I never could 
understand how anybody in a responsible position 
could deal wth international problems without know¬ 
ing some of the more important foreign countries. 
I made it a rule to travel abroad at least once a 
year, sometimes more often. I admit my trips were 
facilitated by invitations to lecture in many foreign 
capitals. Thus I was not only the first German after 
the war to address audiences in Flemish Belgium, but 
also the first to address a large audience in Strasbourg 
(Alsace) in the German language. It is superfluous 
to say that I did it without any suggestion of nation¬ 
alist emphasis. 

Having attended and served as an interpreter at 
all meetings of the Socialist International, I had met 
the delegate from the United States, Morris Hillquit, 
and his wife. How could one help being captivated 
by the charm of Morris Hillquit’s personality ! His 
advice was highly appreciated in the International— 
he belonged to the generation that had laid the 
foundation of the International in pre-war days. 
Although from his youth a citizen of the United 
States, he was familiar with the European scene 
and its leading personalities. Very young in appear- 

236 



Tears in. the Reichstag 

ance, he had a lively interest in new artistic and 
cultural achievements. When he asked me during 
our meeting in Frankfurt, at the time of the inflation, 
to come with him to the opera, he was greatly puzzled 
and amused that so little American money could 
purchase the very best seats. Of course, it was not 
quite so easy and cheap for us Germans ! 

We met again almost every year and worked to¬ 
gether for an entire week at the convention of the 
International in Marseilles in 1925, where we both 
laboured hard in the committee on eastern problems. 
The conferences lasted until midnight or later. Here 
I learned even better to appreciate Morris Hillquit’s 
brilliant mind, his clear logic, and his amiability 
even in controversial discussion. In spite of many 
bitter experiences he %vas an optimist; nothing was 
further removed from his mind than the idea that 
somebody could be vicious. He liked to see the 
world good and beautiful. And when the ugly side 
presented itself, he disposed of it with a fine sense 
of humour and sarcasm. It was in Marseilles that 
Morris Hillquit suggested I should come to the 
United States the next year for a lecture tour. And 
when the summer of 1926 approached, he renewed 
his invitation. Towards the end of August there 
seemed to be a breathing-speU from hard work, and 
I decided to sail. Robert Dissman, with a delegation 
of the Metal Workers International, had left a litde 
earlier for a study trip in the United States and 
Mexico. 

From the very first day I set foot on the Aquiiania 
I refused to speak a word of German. I had thought 
I knew English rather well—^but no sooner had I 

237 



Toni Sender 

arrived at the boat than I realized that I did not 
know American at all. My former visits to England 
had made me feel too safe, because there I had not 
met any difficulty—now the week of the voyage 
among Americans brought me to strange territory. 
However, it was my good fortune that Americans 
are such kind and patient people. They did then- 
best to be helpful. In glowing sunshine the boat 
entered New York Harbour. I can never forget how 
deeply I was moved by the first sight of the skyline, 
imposing and fabulous. IVhat a strange place this 
must be ! 

Morris Hillquit received me at the head of a 
warm reception committee. We had a short and 
merry party, and very soon Morris took me to his 
summer home in Avon on the Jersey shore. There 
I spent a cheerful and pleasant fortnight—some¬ 
thing unusual after my long years of hurry and 
excitement. Only now did I become aware of the 
abnormal strain under which we had lived in Ger¬ 
many for what seemed an endless time. We had 
entirely forgotten how to play, even the usually 
cheerful Rhinelanders. 

Morris did his best to make things as easy for me 
as possible. He arranged meetings with the press 
and with persons he thought I should meet, and 
organized my lecture tour. What a different life 
the American scene presented in those years of 
prosperity, as compared with battle-tom and suffering 
Germany ! How many times would Americans re¬ 
mark, jokingly, “ Don’t be so serious—don’t seek a 
philosophy behind everything. Take it easy.” I 
was glad to follow their advice. Those weeks in 

238 



Tears m the Reichstag 

the United States were a healthy lesson for me. I 
was given a splendid opportunity to grow somewhat 
acquainted “with the land and its citizens. My 
lecture tour took me through the East and the Middle 
West. Deeply impressed by the fine hospitality of 
AmericanSj their simplicity and frankness^ I did not 
for long feel like a stranger. I did my best to study 
the country and its people, but the more I travelled 
the greater grew my amazement at those Europeans 
who, after a brief \dsit, had returned home to write 
learned books on their obser\*ations. 

Nevertheless, I gained certain definite impressions. 
What was then described as the American economic 
miracle ’’ did not, at close sight, seem to me in every 
respect so miraculous. x4bundance and security were 
not universal. Nevertheless, I met many men of 
importance who did not doubt the miracle. One of 
the kindest and most helpful was Professor Jeremiah 
W. Jenks, the economist, to whom I was introduced 
by a professor of the University of Berlin. Among 
the men to whom Professor Jenks and his gentle 
wife introduced me was Malcolm C. Rorty of the 
American Telephone and Telegraph Company. I 
have not yet forgotten the very stimulating luncheon 
conversation in which Colonel Rorty insisted that 
the United States had discovered how to avoid busi¬ 
ness crises. He was convinced that prosperity would 
last. His explanation was that the increasing indus¬ 
trial efficiency and the growing capacity of machinery^ 
developed an “ American wage system ’’ Avhich enabled 
labour to keep pace with and to enjoy the growing 
productivity. I expressed my doubts. I told him 
that investigation during my trip had showm me 

239 



Toni Sender 

that not all the workers, but rather only an upper 
stratum of skilled men, were enjoying high wages. 
Millions of labourers made only a moderate living, 
not to speak of the remaining under-privileged, I 
argued. 

''I see a new disproportion between capacity of 
production and consumptive power developing in 
these United States,’’ I emphasized, '' and I do not 
see that you have conquered the business cycle.” 

The two gentlemen looked ironically at the scep¬ 
tical visitor who did not seem capable of understand¬ 
ing the new American way. . . . Three years later 
the conversation would probably have taken a quite 
different course. 

Professor Jenks wanted me to meet a leading figure 
of American big business, the president of the United 
States Steel Corporation, Judge Elbert H. Gary. It 
w^as a daring suggestion—^that the powerful head of 
one of the biggest anti-union corporations meet a 
German woman, a Socialist, and a trade unionist. 
I sent Professor Jenks’s letter of introduction to 
Judge Gary and received an immediate answer 
suggesting an appointment. I accepted and went. 
A polite young man received me, and we had a 
long talk. After it had lasted some time, I realized 
that he had probably been asked by Judge Gary 
to find out whether I was worth the time that a 
personal talk would entail. I told the young man 
that I did not want to insist upon an interview with 
the president. What I really wanted was permission 
to visit the plants of the steel trust. We understood 
each other—the young man went to report and soon 
came back. 


240 



Tears in the Reichstag 

“Judge Gary wants to see you.” 

I entered the president’s office and found mysel 
in front of a very tall, white-haired gentleman, who, 
in spite of his advanced age, was of upright bearing, 
Immediately we became engaged in a most interest¬ 
ing conversation. I was then well informed on the 
steel industry and its development in Europe. I 
told him what I knew of the growdng European steel 
cartel and its mechanism. Naturally, I wanted him 
also to know labour’s attitude towards the cartel 
and tow^ards the industry in general. Judge Gary, 
of course, did not beheve in genuine unions—what 
he defended w^as the company union. But he listened 
attentively when I told him of our trade union 
experience and especially of the young shop stewnrd 
movement. Our conversation lasted two hours, longer 
than either of us had expected. While w-e were 
talking, subordinates came in with messages, letters 
to be signed or orders to be received. The old gentle¬ 
man handled them with an astonishing alertness and 
always returned quickly to the point of our conver¬ 
sation. When I finally asked him for permission to 
visit the plants of his corporation, he immediately 
dictated letters of introduction to which he added 
something to the effect that Miss Sender “has a 
great future before her ”. 

I felt I had imposed long enough on Judge Gary-’s 
time and prepared to end the visit. Suddenly "he 
asked me : 

“ Will you permit me a last, very personal ques¬ 
tion ? You may answer it only if you care to do 
so.” 

I encouraged him to go on. 

241 



Toni Sender 

“ Why,” he asked, “ didn’t a woman like you 
marry ? ” 

I was indeed embarrassed for a moment. But I 
decided that since our conversation had been con¬ 
ducted in full frankness on both sides, I could satisfy 
the old gentleman’s curiosity on this point also. 

“ I tbinkj Judge Gary, that we have to make up 
our minds as to the main task to which we want to 
devote our lives. Very early I felt the urge to try to 
give my full servdce to the cause of freedom and 
social justice, to help bring about a better existence, 
materially and culturally, for the under-privileged. 
We live in a revolutionary period. Family ties could 
eventually prevent one from showing all the courage 
and unselfishness that a great cause requires—espe¬ 
cially in the case of a young woman. And since the 
earhest days of my childhood I have been guided by 
the poet’s words : ‘ Nichts halb zu tun ist edler Geister 
Art’ (To do nothing half-way is the way of noble 
minds).” 

This conventional-minded titan of American busi¬ 
ness listened quietly and, it seemed to me, with under¬ 
standing, if not, perhaps, with approval. I think we 
separated as friends, although a very strange friend¬ 
ship it was, each belonging to an entirely different 
camp, pursuing such vastly different goals in life. 

My first American trip, towards its end, was sad¬ 
dened by a terrible shock. Robert Dissmann had 
come to America at approximately the same time 
but with a trade union delegation. We had met at 
the Detroit convention of the American Federation 
of Labour. He had seemed to me somewhat changed, 
quieter and reserved, no longer the merry Rhine- 

242 



Tears in the Reichstag 

lander I had known. But never could I have thought 
that it was to be our last meeting. Robert had left 
for home before I was through with my lecture tour. 
A few days later, I read in the xAmerican newspapers 
that on his voyage back he had been stricken by a 
heart attack which took him away. One of the most 
colourful leaders of the German labour movement, the 
most devoted I had met, a friend with the rarest 
qualities anyone has to offer, gone in his forty-eighth 
year, at the very prime of his life ! It was such a 
painful, unforgettable loss. It was impossible to 
enjoy again the gay days in New York. 

Nevertheless, the idea occurred to me : Would 
it not be better for me to live in the United States 
for good? I liked the youth of the nation, the 
friendliness of its inhabitants, the unlimited possi¬ 
bilities. I finally gave up the thought. It w'ould 
mean desertion of a task and of the people who 
trusted me. Once you have entered a movement 
tied up with the plight of your people, you have 
given up at least part of your right to personal 
satisfaction. But when Morris and Vera HiUquit 
accompanied me to the steamer that was to take 
me back to my duty, I promised that I would return 
to the New World. It was a promise that was 
promptly kept—though it was only for a fortnight 
that I visited the United States in the spring of 1927 
and again in 1930. 

I could never spare more time than that, for I had 
become too deeply involved in exacting activity in 
the Reichstag as well as outside. Since w'e had not 
succeeded in defeating the new tariff, I attacked the 
task from another point. My effort was directed 

243 



Toni Sender 

towards breaking down the customs walls by reciprocal 
trade treaties containing the most-favoured-nation 
clause. Two parties, the Social Democrats and the 
small Democratic group, supported that policy. The 
Communists opposed trade treaties and voted against 
them, with the exception of one with Russia, not¬ 
withstanding the fact that every pact lowered some 
tariff frontiers. A few more far-sighted leaders among 
the Catholics and the representatives of the People’s 
party gave me their support. 

Reading the debates that took place in the Reich¬ 
stag during the republic, I realize now that there was 
hardly a single trade treaty before that body which 
I did not either report on for the tariff committee or 
defend before the house. The only exceptions were 
those treaties of later years in which an attempt 
was made to change the nature of the reciprocal 
pacts by a tendency towards a number of autonomous 
tariffs, tariffs that would not be reduced in treaties. 
The Nazis, although represented on the tariff com¬ 
mittee, did not function there. They were opposed 
to international trade, declared it a Jewish invention, 
and were enthusiasts of autarchy. There can thus 
be no doubt that their doctrine of self-sufficiency later 
on was not forced upon them, but had always been 
their economic ideal, corresponding as it did with 
their exaggerated political nationalism. Each treaty 
could be pushed through the house only after a fight 
-—the extreme Left as well as the extreme Right 
directing their attacks at me. Convinced of the 
soundness of my position, I persistently fought my 
way through. Encouragement came in the growth 
of German exports from about nine billion marks in 

244 



. Tears in the Reichstag 

1925 to thirteen and a half billion in 1929, giving 
bread to millions of German workers and bringing 
new economic welfare to the nation. 

It is with a peculiar sentiment that I recall the 
government representatives with whom I was in 
closest collaboration while striving for these ends. 
Among them/ for instance, was Dr. Karl Ritter, 
then Ministerial Director of the Foreign Office and 
an adherent of free trade—to-day he is in Nazi ser\dce. 
He was ambassador to Brazil and was finally expelled 
from that country for his Nazi acthities. Another 
was the Ministerial Counsel of the Foreign Office, 
Dr. Ernst Eisenlohr, a modest and apparently honest 
officer of the republic, who later on was elevated by 
the totalitarian state to the responsible post of ambas¬ 
sador in Prague. He was the man who delivered 
Hitler’s demands and ultimatums to the late Czech 
republic. How a man can be as devoted a seivant 
to a barbaric dictatorship as to a civilized republic 
goes beyond my understanding. Or are there really 
human beings performing serious, responsible work 
without any convictions of their own ? 

Of course, it often happened that I met some diffi¬ 
culties in our own ranks. In certain cases the manu¬ 
facturers cleverly attempted to use the shop stewards 
to further their profit interests or what they called 
the common interest of employer and employee. 
There was always the tendency of certain groups 
in industry, faced with difficulties, to seek salvation 
in the elimination of competition. They would 
approach us with demands for higher tariffs. 

The campaign of the automobile industry at one 
point proved to be very effective. First, delegations 

245 R 



Toni Sender 

of owners arrived. Then spokesmen from the “shop 
councils visited me. Finally the issue came before 
our parliamentary group. I convinced our members 
without much difficulty that a prohibitive • tariff on 
automobiles and automobile parts would only increase 
the costs of the German car and reduce sales. What 
we needed was not more protection but more ration¬ 
alization. We had far too many factories for the 
German market—only modernization could help, 
even if it meant temporary sacrifices on the part of 
the workers. In the long run, rationalization and 
reduction of the number of factories producing cheaper 
cars would benefit the workers and the national 
economy. Despite my arguments, the Metal Workers 
Union had to cope with much dissatisfaction on the 
part of members who felt themselves threatened with 
unemployment as a consequence, so they were told 
by their bosses, of lack’ of tariff protection. Wffien 
the executive board of the union approached me, I 
proposed that they call a national conference of the 
shop stewards at which I would deliver a lecture on 
“ how to save the automobile industry ’h I told 
them I had confidence in our workers’ intelligence. 
The conference was called. I gave the lecture, and 
after ample discussion on a high plane, a motion to 
reject the demands for prohibitive tariffs was unanim¬ 
ously adopted. I am, still proud of our workers when 
I think of this testimony to their intelligent thinking ; 
and I cannot help drawing from this incident some 
conclusions on their present attitude towards the Nazi 
economic system. 

Shortly after I had returned from the United 
States, some of my academic friends, among them 

246 



Tears in the Reichstag 

especially Professor Julius Hirsch, insisted that I 
ought to prepare for an academic career. I liked 
the idea. To take part in such work had been my 
desire ever since I had left my parents. But how to 
find the time to study for university entrance examina¬ 
tions ? Professor Hirsch declared : “ You can present 
yourself at the Prussian Ministry of Education for 
the examinations given to especially gifted persom. 
Send the ministry some of your scientific articles in 
magazines, and I am sure you will be admitted to 
the examinations.” 

“ But how can I find the time to prepare for the 
written and oral tests ? ” I asked. 

“ You don’t need preparation—you wffl pass.” 

I entered on the adventure without telling anybody 
about it. It would be too humiliating if I failed 
a member of the Reichstag not being admitted to a 
university ! 

I sent my writings to the ministry and was accepted. 
Dates were set for two written examinations ; the 
two days happened to coincide with very important 
roll-call votes in the Reichstag, which I could not 
possibly miss. At two o’clock I started writing at 
four o’clock I had to be in the Reichstag. And I 
was there on time each day. The long experience 
in hasty parliamentary work and as a journalist had 
been good training. When I learned that one of the 
professors who were to give the oral examination was 
Anton Herkner, I was frightened. A short time 
before I had written a series of articles criticizing the 
very famous professor’s latest book. But Professor 
Herkner proved to be the kindest examiner I could 
have desired. He asked a long series of questions on 

247 


Toni Sender 

the lines of my writings and parliamentary work^ 
and I was happy to be able to answer them to his 
apparent satisfaction. I still think I owe it to him 
that I passed^ for my achievements in other matters 
were less satisfactory. 

Now I was a university student. I was not too 
regular in my attendance in the lecture halls of my 

alma mater but I was a constant visitor in the 
Reichstag library, and I tried to use every spare 
moment for study. My Reichstag friends, when they 
learned about my venture after it was over, scolded 
me because they thought I had taken too great a 
chance. What a delight it would have been to my 
political enemies if I had failed ! My friends may 
have been right—^but I had succeeded in my initial 
tests. 

Alas—professional and political work did not 
decrease in the days that followed. I had to go on 
working until late at night, travelling to those cities, 
many outside my constituency, where I could help. 
We in Dresden also had much educational activity in 
which I had to do my share. Nobody was surprised 
when I suffered a reappearance of tuberculosis in the 
winter of 1927. Again I found myself on the magic 
mountain at Davos. This time my illness was over¬ 
come faster. The three months I had to spend there 
passed quickly in the company of the sick German 
poet Klabund, author of Peter the Greats who was very 
seriously affected and not much later was to pass 
away. How this highly gifted man, with the appear¬ 
ance of a university student, loved life and liked to 
dance ! It was as if he wanted to enjoy life quickly : 
since it would not last long. That winter the Alsatian 

248 



Tears in the Rekhtag 

writer, Rene ScHckeie, spent the wiiter in Davos 
fighting a nervous condition. The Swiss poet. Rudolf 
Utzinger, used to join us in the Kursaal Cafe during 
the sunny morning hours when we were permitted 
to go outdoors. 

It was good that I had had some rest, for the new 
year was to add a new burden. The Socialist move¬ 
ment had since 1924 published an illustrated maga¬ 
zine for women of the labouring and middle classes 
called Frauenwelt, The idea behind the periodical 
was that women, having won the right to vote, 
should be given an opportunity to acquire some 
political and general culture. But there are many 
hard-working housewives who dislike the daily news¬ 
papers. They are not familiar with politics nor 
very much interested. We felt, how'Cver, that they 
would read a publication dealing with their daily 
problems and offering also a glimpse of some of the 
beautiful things of life, especially if such a magazine 
had an attractive, artistic appearance. A man. 
Dr. L., had been made the editor of the paper. After 
a promising beginning, how^ever, the enterprise started 
to go dowmhill. Many complaints from w^omen’s 
organizations appeared, and it w^as felt that the project 
could be saved only by a fundamental change in the 
editorial management. The party discussed the 
problem for months but could not agree on a new 
editor. 

One day the two presidents of the party, Hermann 
Mtiller and Otto Weis, came to me for a talk, during 
which they asked me to become the managing editor 
of Ffduenwelt, They said they knew I was a person 
.'.with .strong political interests and convictions, but 

249 



Toni Sender 

they thought me also capable of speaking the language 
of the average small-town and village woman. 

“ I know,” Hermann Muller said, “ that you would 
not use this organ as a mouthpiece for your personal 
political tendencies but make it the magazine of ail 
the women who want information and entertainment 
in a pleasant form.” 

“ I cannot answer you immediately,” I replied. 
“ We have disagreed on many tactical and other 
problems in the past. And I want to maintain my 
independence in the future. You do not expect me 
to stop my opposition if you give me the job ? It 
may happen that I would become even more out¬ 
spoken in order to satisfy my conscience.” 

My intellectual freedom would remain untouched, 
both men replied; and I felt they would keep their 
word. 

After a few weeks of reflection I accepted the new 
task—not an easy one, because the paper was run 
down and had no reputation. But it gave me lots of 
fun. Before I accepted, I had made certain that I 
would be granted a budget enabling me to employ 
the best writers and artists as my collaborators. 
Since we had the best printing plant working for us, 
I undertook to give the paper a completely new 
format. Now I could and did revel in the presenta¬ 
tion of my beloved French artists, but without 
neglecting young German artists and writers and the 
talents of other nations. Although it was my first 
experience of the kind, the magazine picked up again. 
I received no complaint whatsoever -until the end— 
when the Nazis in 1933 took their revenge and 
suppressed an organ of education for which the Third 

250 



Tears in the Reichstag 

Reich had no use. If it was a successj I owe it to the 
splendid assistance of an efficient secretary and to 
the circle of excellent collaborators with whom a close 
friendship had developed. Without this genuine 
co-operation it would have been impossible for a 
single person to publish a magazine expressing such 
manifold interests. There w^as never any attempt by 
the party executive to interfere in my work—they 
gave me complete liberty. 

A period in the life of the German republic when 
the people were to enjoy a more normal 'life seemed 
to have arrived. Economic conditions improved. 
There was less restlessness. Many thought that the 
basis of the republic had become safe. I remained 
suspicious, knowing that the subversive forces of the 
Right were only biding their time for a moment of 
depression and despair. But for the time being 
people worked and were confident. This balanced 
state of mind profited the Social Democratic party in 
the elections of May 20, 1928. It received 9,146,165 
votes and 152 Reichstag. seats, as compared with 
7,880,058 votes and 131 seats in 1924. The Nation¬ 
alists lost approximately 1,500,000 votes, while the 
Nazis dropped from 908,087 to 809,541. The Com¬ 
munists added some 440,000 to their 1924 total of 
2,708,176. It was an impressive \dctory for the 
Social Democrats, who had become the strongest 
Reichstag group. They had to accept their responsi¬ 
bility and form the new government in coalition with 
other parties. 

Hermann Muller for the second time became 
prime minister—^he had been at the head of the 
' government that signed the Versailles Treaty. Muller 

251 


Toni Sender 

was a hard-working man with a strong sense ^ of 
responsibility and an almost exaggerated objectivity. 
Witty and humorous in private, he was sober in his 
political acthity. I think he was not sufficiently a 
fighter. But one could not find a more chivalrous 
companion—I had experienced this myself. At a 
time of acute controversy in the labour movement 
I had been asked by a constituency in Saxony to 
come to a convention to debate with Muller. Not 
only did we have a debate on a very high level, though 
both of us vigorously defended our points of view, 
but Muller was chivalrous enough to offer me the 
last word, to which I was not entitled. 

Muller had a hard job as head of the new govern¬ 
ment, although he had in Gustav Stresemarm a 
loyal collaborator. Stresemann’s party, the People’s 
party, however, co-operated only reluctantly with the 
Socialists and were merely waiting for the propitious 
moment to swing back to the right. Similar ten¬ 
dencies were prevalent among the strong right wing 
of the Catholics. This made the life of the govern¬ 
ment precarious from the very beginning. 

Nevertheless, we were not prepared for any dis¬ 
agreeable surprises when in August, 1928, we went 
to the International Sociahst Congress in Brussels. 
After the convention many of the delegates pthered at 
a party in the house of the Belgian Socialist, Senator 
Albert Frangois. Suddenly a journahst came to me :■ 
“ I have just received news that the German govern¬ 
ment has voted to start building armoured cruiser 
No. I,” he said. “ The vote was unanimous.” 

I was amazed and furious. Of course, the credits 
for this cruiser, which was to be the first of a series 

252 



Tears in the Reichstag 

of warships permitted by the Versailles Treaty, had 
been voted by a majority of the Right and over the 
opposition of the labour vote. The cabinet’s decision 
was only the execution of this vote. But how could 
the Socialist ministers take a different attitude from 
that which they had taken as Reichstag members in 
the opposition ! I considered their stand an exagger¬ 
ated conception of the duty of cabinet ministers, and 
a serious mistake. Had they forgotten that in the 
last campaign we had sounded the slogan that the 
government of the Right preferred the armoured 
cruiser to free meals for needy children ? The 
parties of the Right had curtailed the credits for needy 
children while voting the expenditure for the cruiser. 
Our members and voters expected us to stand by our 
election promises. 

I immediately talked the situation over with my 
colleague, S. Aufhauser, a member of the Reichstag 
and the president of the Business and Professional 
Workers’ Union, v>^ho was present at the reception. 
On our trip back to Germany wc wrote an article 
and an appeal to our membership, disapproving the 
government’s attitude and maintaining the party’s 
former viewpoint. We both signed this declaration 
and asked the party’s central newspaper, the Berlin 
Vorwdris, to publish it, which it did. It had a good 
effect—restoring somewhat the shaken confidence of 
the masses. The Socialist ^ministers’ vote was a serious 
' psychological error—and the psychological effect was 
often underestimated by our ministers. We who had 
opposed building armoured cruisers certainly were 
..for.general disarmament, but we also were aware 
...that, as long as the Allied nations refused to keep 

253 



Toni Sender 

their promise to follow German disarmament with 
their own, Germany could not be left entirely un¬ 
protected. This cruiser, however, had become a 
kind of symbol in the eyes of our followers. And 
for a people like the Germans, easily susceptible 
to emotional appeal, symbols can take on a real 
importance. 

As far as possible the mistake was repaired when 
our parliamentary group moved in the Reichstag to 
halt construction of the cruiser and aU our ministers 
voted with our members. As a step further to clarify 
the party’s position towards the military problem, a 
special committee was appointed to work out a 
precise military programme. I was made a member 
of this committee, the only woman on it. My view¬ 
point, which I defended in the committee, was this : 
Germany’s geographical and political position should 
lead her to be the champion of general, internation¬ 
ally controlled disarmament. However, as long as 
the Allied nations could not be made to disarm as 
they had forced Germany to do, as long as aggres¬ 
sive states presented a permanent military and social 
threat, we could not make democratic Germany 
completely defenceless. Our influence should be 
used in the international field to put into practice 
the ideals of international solidarity and security. 
Meantime, it must be our task on the national field 
to make the army a better instrument for democracy 
and the officers’ corps a more reliable body for the 
republic. 

During the same year that the party convention 
decided on its new defence programme, a serious 
attempt was made to find a more constructive solu- 

254 



Tears in the Reichstag 

tion for the difiiculties of German agriculture. The 
farmers had begun to realize that a permanent raising 
of tariff walls was not bringing the help they had 
expected. The government decided to appoint a 
committee of experts to find a new way out of the 
difficulty. I was made a member of that committee 
—again the only w^oman on it. Most of the meinbers 
were agricultural theoreticians or practitioners. The 
research and debate turned to the creation of a grain 
monopoly. I considered it my task to watch over 
the interest of the small farmer and the consumer, 
while a majority on the committee seemed more 
concerned with the plight of the big wheat- and 
rye-producing estates. 

The work was complicated by the desire of some 
of us not to violate any existing trade treaty, and 
also to try to reconcile producer and consumer 
interests. , For weeks we met all day and the,,, dis¬ 
cussions lasted until late at night. Some of the 
representatives of the stronger sex, when the night 
hours approached, felt tired and unable to make any 
further efforts. I had the impression of being the 
lonely guardian of the general and the co,iisiii2iers* 
interest, and I had to keep alert until the end. I 
succeeded—never was iveary before the sitting was 
over—because during my actmty in public life I had 
always imposed self-discipline upon myself, not wasting 
time at night in cafes or clubs. That, of course, did 
not mean that „ I lived like an ascetic. I did not 
disdain to use a short pause during the Reichstag 
session to go with Professor X of the Economic party 
to a near-by dance hall and there relax for half an 
hour while" dancing. Such an incident, how^ever, 

255 



Toni Sender 

was rather the exception—generally members of the 
parties kept away from each other and met socially 
only at the official Speaker’s receptions. 

The experts’ committee, although nearing a com¬ 
mon understanding, finally was prevented from work¬ 
ing out its programme—political influences did not 
want us to propose an organization for grain produc¬ 
tion and trade. I did not insist further, doubting 
whether the small farmers’ welfare could be taken 
care of adequately in view of the strong influence of 
the big estate owners. 

At least one pleasant experience interrupted my 
hard work during the cabinet of Hermann Muller. 
The big airship Graf Zeppelin was to take a trip to 
the Orient and upon the suggestion of the Minister 
of Transport, Herr von Guerard, Captain Hugo 
Eckener invited me as a guest of the ministry. It 
was early in spring, 1929, and it turned out to be the 
most wonderful travelling experience of my life. A 
mixed company met in the big, ghostly-looking 
Zeppelin hall in Friedrichshafen. All were deeply 
moved and united by expectations of a great common 
experience. In less than four days we should visit 
three continents and be back again. Gliding smoothly, 
the giant inspired confidence, and one hardly cared 
to retire for sleep for fear of missing some interesting 
view when the ship flew over France, Italy, Greece, 
Egypt, and Palestine and then to the Dead Sea. It 
was a solemn moment when the airship dipped 
below sea-level. We looked at the dark Dead Sea, 
fabulously lighted by a shiny golden moon, and, with 
Hugo Eckener, we all clinked glasses filled with 
Palestine wine. We drank to peace and under- 

256 



Tears in the Reichstag 

standing among the nations. . . . What has since 
become of this messenger of peace ! 

During this period the question of German repara¬ 
tions again became acute. The payments under the 
Dawes Plan were to amount to 2,500 million marks a 
year beginning with September, 1928. The function¬ 
ing of the Dawes Plan had been made possible largely 
by foreign loans, both official and private. But these 
could not go on indefinitely. A new committee of 
experts had worked out the Young Plan, named 
after its American chairman, Owen D. Young. It 
fixed definite annuities for a duration of fifty-nine 
years. All foreign control was abolished. Although 
it still presented a much too heav)" burden, the Young 
Plan was an important improvement over the Dawes 
Plan. However, the patriotism of the Right appar¬ 
ently was weaker than its desire to strengthen its 
party influence. Therefore, the Right demanded a 
plebiscite on the Young Plan. Of course, it lost. 
The great majority of the German people was then 
still cool-headed enough to recognize that the defeat 
of the Young Plan meant continuation of the much 
less favourable Dawes Plan. 

Meanwhile, Alfred Hugenberg had replaced Count 
Westarp as leader of the German Nationalists. Hugen¬ 
berg was a former director of the Kxupp munitions 
factory and later became a successful businessman 
who to a large extent financed the German National¬ 
ist party. With the help of Hugo Stinnes he had 
organized the advertising agency Telegraphen-Union. 
He succeeded in bringing under his influence, 
especially with the beginning of the new economic 

25,7 



Toni Sender 

crisis, an endless number of provincial newspapers. 
To increase his influence, he also acquired the 
greatest German film enterprise, the U.F.A. His 
extensive business power made an army of men 
subservient to him. 

I met Alfred Hugenberg very^ often in the Reich¬ 
stag. I heard him speak and I never could under¬ 
stand how such a poor speaker, a man with so little 
personality or alertness, revealing no signs whatso¬ 
ever of a brilliant mind, could exercise such great 
influence. I can only explain it by his great economic 
power, enabhng him to control thousands of jobs. 

The plebiscite on the Young Plan was the first 
common enterprise of the Hugenberg and Hitler 
parties. It was to become significant for Germany’s 
future. Be it said here : Hugenberg and his party 
are responsible for Germany’s descent into barbarism. 
They gave the rise of Hitler the outward signs of 
legality. Their support helped to bring the Nazi 
camp its necessary finances. Hugenberg introduced 
the Nazis to the respectable world. 

For weeks, in the combined committees on foreign 
affairs and the budget, we had discussed laws for the 
execution of the Young Plan. I took an active part 
in this work, and to any objective judge who had 
studied the complicated matter there could be no 
doubt that the Young Plan meant important progress. 
However, all progress was too slow—it was not yet 
understood internationally that in the interest of 
world peace the young republic needed some out¬ 
standing success. 

Instead of that there was new humiliation in store. 
When the Minister of Finance, Dr. Rudolph Hilferd- 

258 



Tears in the Reichstag 

iiig, presented to the Reichstag his prograninie of 
new taxes and loans to stabilize the budget, the agent 
for the Reparations Commission came forward with 
a declaration that new lo2tns could be floated only 
with his consent, which he would not grant with¬ 
out Dr. Schacht’s acquiescence. The government 
was thus forced by foreign interv-ention to submit 
to the dictatorship of Dr, Schacht, who m,eanwhiie 
had more and more developed into a voiuntar}’ agent 
of the reaction and soon after of the Nazis. 

The conflict between the forces of reaction and 
liberalism came to the fore in the search for a solu¬ 
tion of the difficulties of the unemployment insur¬ 
ance system. The system was unprepared for such a 
serious economic crisis as developed in 1929. It has 
been widely argued that labour should have been 
less intransigent in order to avoid a ministerial crisis 
and the end of the Mtiller government. I think this 
argument is vain. The crisis would have come 
anyway. The conservatives and reactionaries had 
gained the upper hand in all middle-class parties, 
and there were no liberal parties in the Reichstag 
with which labour could collaborate. 

Hermann Muller’s overthrow cannot have been 
unexpected ly the middle-class parties. If the defeat 
of his cabinet had not been deliberate, it would not 
have been possible to have another government im¬ 
mediately at hand. Such a government was quickly 
„ organized, the Right coalition of Dr. Heinrich Briining, 
The new cabinet shoxved itself from the very beginning 
to be tainted with strong authoritarian tendencies ; 
in his first declaration before the Reichstag Briining 
said : This cabinet is formed to fulfil the necessary 

259 



Toni Sender 

tasks in. the interest of the nation in the shortest time. 

It will be the last attempt to find the solution with 
this Reichstag.” 

There was no reason to consider the Briining 
cabinet the only possible government and to threaten 
dissolution in case the house did not agree with it. 
Other men and other combinations might have been 
found. However, a new course had been charted, 
and the palace of President Hindenburg became more 
important than the Reichstag building. Soon the 
era of intrigues was to start. It was the beginning 
of government by decree. And when in the summer 
of 1930 a majority of the Reichstag demanded can¬ 
cellation of these decrees, Briining simply announced 
the dissolution of the Reichstag without any further 
attempt to come to an understanding. 

The elections of September 14, 1930, were a turning 
point in German history. It was a stormy campaign 

_^Nazis began to appear at my meetings. Without 

the constant help of the republican militia, the 
Reichsbanner, we would not have been able to 
carry on our activity. They protected our gatherings, 
prepared to answer violence with violence. Election 
day brought a triumph for the Nazis. While the 
Social Democrats lost only about half a million votes 
(retaining 8,572,016), which the Communists gained, 
the Hugenberg party of the German Nationalists lost 
almost half of their voters to the Nazis, who jumped 
from the 809,541 votes of two years before to 6,401,210. 
They had been the beneficiaries of the losses of their 
ally Hugenberg and had succeeded in mobilizing those 
lower middle-class citizens who had never voted before. 

A new era had begim—a disas trous era. 

260 



XI 

THE NEW BARBARIANS APPEAR 


The economics committee of the Reichstag was 
meeting. We were engaged in a vigorous debate 
over a government bill—the discussion had been 
going on for some days. Suddenlvj in the midst of 
the proceedings, the door opened and in came a man 
whom nobody seemed to know. He sat down in 
front of the chairman and immediately asked for the 
floor. 

■. The chairman, old Josef S., at whose side I was 
sitting, whispered to me, “ Who is that man ? ” 

I don’t know—never saw him before. I shall 
inquire.” 

I spoke to other members of the committee, but 
no one knew him. Calling one of the Reichstag 
marshals, I asked him to bring me the official 
handbook with the names and photographs of all 
members. 

Meanwhile the stranger’s turn in the discussion 
had come, and he started to speak. He did not seem 
to know anything about the agenda nor the bill we 
were discussing. I looked at old Josef; others looked 
at me questioningly. Who is this chap ? Is he a 
member of the house? 

. . A member of the People’s party came to me. 

261 s 



Toni Sender 

“ Do you think that man is sane ? I have never 
heard such confused talk in all my life.” 

“ You are right,” I replied ; “ I’d better warn our 
chairman not to stop him. He might be dangerous. 

For over an hour the man talked, ranting inco¬ 
herently. By that time, we all were sure we were 
dealing with a madman. When the handbook finally 
arrived, we looked into it and discovered that the 
speaker was Gottfried Feder, a member of the Reichstag 
and the author of the Nazi party programme ! (Herr 
Feder is now in disgrace ; he made the fatal mistake 
of taking his own programme seriously.) 

The incident occurred long before the first great 
Nazi electoral victory and has been almost forgotten. 
However, it came back to my mind when the newly 
elected Reichstag met for the first time on October 
^ 3 ) 1930- The session started with an absurd farce. 
The Nazi group, now' 107 strong, changed clothes in 
the Reichstag cloakroom and marched into the plena^ 
session hall in brownshirt uniforms. The Nazi regalia 
was prohibited during that period, but their Reichstag 
members made use of their immunity in the house. 
Outside, Nazi rowdies staged their first rehearsal of 
window smashing, rioting, and destruction of Jewish 
shops, caf&, and department stores. 

When I entered the Reichstag hall, my eyes fell 
immediately on the strange brownshirt group. This 
was the elite of the “Aryan” race !—this noisy, 
shouting, uniformed gang. I looked at their faces 
carefully. The more I studied them, the more I was 
terrified by what I saw ; so many men wdth the faces 
of criminals and degenerates. What a degradation to 
sit in the same place with such a gang ! Whoever 

262 



The New Barbarians Appear 

glanced once at them had to be prepared for all the 
crimes, all the cruelties, and perv'erse acts that were 
to take place little more than two years later. 

Most striking among them was the former lieu¬ 
tenant, Edmund Heines, with the hardened, brutish 
features of a “ killer It was he who had announced 
on posters during his campaign for the Reichstag ; 

“ FOTg-murderer ^ Heines will speak.” Heines was one 
of the men who were killed by order of Hitler in the 
purge of June 30, 1934 ; but certainly not because 
he was a murderer and abnormal—had he not always 
prided himself on his acts of bestiality ? 

It was shortly after this ominous beginning that 
the former naval ofhcer, Hellmut KJotz, came to the 
Reichstag to see members of the Left. Klotz had been 
a member of the Nazi party, but had left it after 
realizing all the mendacity and rottenness of the 
movement. Klotz had made public letters witten by 
Hitler’s intimate friend Captain Ernst Rohm reveal¬ 
ing Rohm’s perverted sexual life. Klotz had come to 
the Reichstag that day to discuss further revelations. 
When I left the plenary hall for a moment and went 
to the lobby, a man was entering, moaning and 
covered with blood. It was Captain Klotz. He had 
been discovered and treacherously attacked by a mob 
of Nazi Reichstag members led by Feme-murderer 
Heines. When later the June purge came and Hitler 
tried to sell the world the lie that he had^ had to 
kill Rohm and Heines because of their immoral 
lives, I remembered this scene in the Reichstag when 
the Nazis almost murdered KJotz because he had 

1 Member of the special execution gang of the Frre Corps, an illeg^ 
mili tary group ; those suspected of “ treason ” were killed without trial. 

263 



Toni Sender 

made known the truth which the Fiihrer and his 
gang wanted hidden. 

After the September elections, the German tragedy 
began. The parliamentary system could not function 
normally any longer in a parliament where almost 
half of the members were opposed to democracy. The 
two strongest groups among these were the 107 Nazis 
and the 77 Communists. Dr. Briining, although not 
enjoying the positive confidence of the house, governed 
by the tolerance of a majority. Most of the legis¬ 
lative work was accomplished by decree. We did our 
best to maintain political discussion at a tolerable 
level. And it was certainly to a great extent due to 
the extraordinary skill of the Speaker, our fiiend 
Paul Lobe, that this level could be maintained until 

1932- 

A few days after the opening of the Reichstag there 
was a topic on the agenda on which I was appointed 
by om: group to speak, for I had always dealt with 
that question in committee. I was warned by some 
colleagues not to risk provoking the strong Nazi 
group so soon. A woman, a non-Aryan, and a Social 
Democrat, I had to be prepared to encounter howhng 
and derision. 

“ All the more reason to speak,” I retorted ; “ we 
cannot submit to Nazi standards.” 

I had scarcely begun to talk when a hail of inter¬ 
ruptions—shouts, catcalls, laughter—came from the 
Nazis. I retorted •with a violent attack on the rioters. 
I bitterly denounced them, speaking only in their 
direction. From surprise, certainly not from gal¬ 
lantry on their part, my tactics proved successful. 
The respect I had acquired among all the other 

264 



The Mem Barbarmns Appear 

groups of the Reichstag contributed to this result, 
although the new economic policies had taken a 
course where I could no longer vote for or support 
the government’s policy. 

The Nazis were still only the opposition—but Nazi 
economic ideas already were influencing the govern¬ 
ment’s decisions. The cabinet began to move away 
from the idea of creating freer trade by reciprocal 
trade treaties and the most-favoured-nation clause. 
The idea of bilateral treaties began to gain ground. 
Should I let things go on as the majority wished ? 
.But this meant a fatal lowering of the standard of 
living of the masses. I felt I had no right to acquiesce 
in this. In many negotiatio.ns with the economic 
expert of the Catholic group. Professor Friedrich 
Dessauer, and in a number of conferences with 
Chancellor Pruning of the same party, I did my best 
to prevent disastrous and irrevocable decisions. Pro¬ 
fessor Dessauer agreed with me on a number of 
fundamentals, and we could easily have reached an 
understanding. But would President Hindenburg 
sign a decree to which the agrarian parties and the 
Right were opposed ? The lack of a normally func¬ 
tioning parliament was felt more and more as the 
economic crisis became more acute and the number 
of unemployed increased. Bold, new^ ideas were 
needed. Instead, the government inaugurated a policy 
of deflation. 

Those of us who, as members of the Reichstag, had 
to decide whether to continue tolerating the cabinet 
of Dr. Briining, were faced with a terrible alternative. 
To continue tolerating Dr. Briining demanded too 
great a sacrifice from the labouring masses—but it also 

265 



Toni Sender 


miglit mean maintaining the republican regime until 
the depression had passed and improved economic 
conditions could aid a return to a more normal 
parliament. Overthrow of Dr. Briining presented 
the risk of a still more dictatorial, more reactionary 
government. 

We thought, therefore, that we should first try 
toleration. But when Dr. Briining came out with 
decrees ordering hea\y wage cuts and big reductions 
in relief and in appropriations for other social ser¬ 
vices, I felt I could no longer share responsibility for 
this policy. The only justification of this toleration 
could be the attempt to save democracy and the re¬ 
public. But who were the people who wanted and 
supported the regime of democracy? In the first 
instance, it was the labouring masses. Alienating them 
by reducing their purchasing power and abrogating 
hard-won laws protecting their working and social con¬ 
ditions constituted a direct threat to the existence of 
the republic. Toleration of the Briining government, 
therefore, lost whatever meaning it had possessed. I 
fought for this point of view in our parliamentary 
group, warning of serious losses in the next electoral 
test and a weakening of the fighting spirit of our 
members. But the majority—as so often happened— 
was against me, and the policy of tolerating the cabinet 
went on. 

In these very difficult times it was most important 
to keep in closest contact with the electorate. At 
least once or twice a week I travelled to my constitu¬ 
ency and in public meetings I endeavoured to keep 
our voters informed of what was happening and of 
why I had voted as I had. Since the elections of 

266 



The Mew Barbarians Appear 

September, 1930, I had had to fight mth the Nazis 
at almost every one of my meetings. And in most 
of the gatherings, the Communists too were present. 
That led to some exciting experiences. 

One Sunday afternoon I was to address a meeting 
in a smal town near the Czech border. I had scarcely 
entered the hail when I sensed that something would 
happen. I saw a great number of Nazis present, 
flaunting swastikas, and was told that a surpiisiiigly 
large number of Communists had appeared as wdl. 
During my speech I was interrupted often, but I suc¬ 
ceeded in completing what I had to say. When I was 
through, a Communist took the floor, attacking me, 
attacking the Weimar constitution and the l¥eimar 
republic. 

Away with this system ! he shouted. He was 
followed by a Nazi. It was almost the same song : 
“ Away with this regime ! When tliey were through, 
I was given the floor to comment on the discussion. 
I made a good start but a choir was organized, 
composed of the tw^o groups. The Communists 
shouted Red Front ” and the Nazis answered with 

Heil Hitler ^’3 one of their leaders directing both 
groups in the manner of a cheer leader at an American 
football game ! Nazis and Kozis were collaborating 
to shout down a Socialist woman ! I felt deeply 
ashamed for the Communists. 

It must not happen again. We will not have any 
more meetings without well-organized protection by 
our republican militia,” I told my friends in Dresden. 
They agreed, and it did not happen again in my 
constituency. 

Soon after, I was asked to speak in Bischofswerda, 
267 


Toni Sender 

an industrial town in Saxony. It was an icy-cold 
winter night. Slowly the audience arrived. Then the 
doors opened and in marched a formidable group of 
young men, each adorned with the swastika. I was 
pleased. Offence is the best defence, I thought. 
Changing my topic somewhat, I delivered a well- 
documented attack on National Socialism. My young 
visitors, when I was through, seemed uncertain. I had 
assured them that we offered them a free platform to 
defend their ideas. They seemed embarrassed and 
began to whisper among themselves. Meanwhile, the 
Communists, as usual, had asked for the floor and 
had started to attack me. While this was going on, 
one young Nazi came up to me and brought me a 
letter. It said : We are sorry—^we cannot discuss 
with non-Aryans.’’ The letter was signed : German 
National Socialist Labour Party—^local group, Bischofs- 
werda.” After the discussion was through, I got up 
to reply. I had just started, when the entire group 
of young Nazis stood up and moved to leave the hall. 

Pardon me, young men,” I interrupted my talk, 
'' will you not wait a moment ? You have v^itten 
me a letter and I want to give you an answer.” 

They stopped marching, again seemingly embar¬ 
rassed. Then their leader stammered : “ I am sorry, 
but we have to catch the last train.” 

But we are in Bischofswerda, young men,” I 
retorted. ‘‘ Why do you have to take a train ? Did 
you not sign your letter : Local group, Bischofs¬ 
werda ’ ? ” 

Still greater embarrassment. But they stayed there, 
like good boys, and listened until I had finished. 
Whether they missed their last train, I cannot say. 

268 



The Mew Barbarians Appear 

Indeed, they were not from Bischofswerda, but were 
students from a mining engineering academy at 
Freiberg, another town of my constituency. The rest 
of the audience had great fun that evening. 

I had already forgotten that incident when I had to 
address another Sunday meeting in my constituency. 
To protect this meeting, a strong troop of the repub¬ 
lican militia had marched all the way from Bischofs¬ 
werda. Their presence proved not unnecessary. A 
still bigger group of Nazis, some of them in brown- 
shirt uniform, had appeared. This time, after I had 
ended my talk, a young man with a swastika asked 
for the floor. Hastily the leader of our republican 
militia came up and whispered : “ Toni, this is the 
same man that wrote you the letter at the Bischofs¬ 
werda meeting.” Excellent ! When the Nazis had 
shouted long enough and the other speakers during 
the discussion period had concluded, I told the gather¬ 
ing of the fun we had had in Bischofswerda a few 
weeks before and asked the Nazi speaker if he ahvays 
changed his principles so quickly. His race-religion 
prohibited him from debating with a non-i.\ryan, I 
reminded him. I had not changed my race. Had 
he forgotten his dogma ? He did not know what to 
answer, the poor fellow. They had only to obey 
orders and not use their own brains. 

But these sessions did not always end pleasantly. 
Many times the Nazis started to riot, fighting and 
throwing chairs and other objects until it required 
an actual battle to put them out of the place. 

It was my conviction that, although the Nazis were 
a swamp plant product of the economic crisis, it was 
not sufficient to combat them with police and negative 

269 



Toni Sender 

measures. We had to prove to the electorate that 
there was a way out of the depression and despair, 
and must indicate that way. Together with my col¬ 
league, S. Aufhauser, I insisted in the Social Demo¬ 
cratic party that our experts must work out a con¬ 
structive programme on a solid economic basis and 
translate it into popular language that could be under¬ 
stood by the common man. It took us a long time 
to win acceptance of our idea. More time was needed 
before the consent of the trade union movement was 
obtained. The year 1932 had approached before this 
programme was published under the title Socialist 
Action. It proposed measures to overcome the crisis. 
Unfortunately, it was not drawn up in language 
popular enough to strike home among the masses. It 
served, however, as a model for the Plan du travail 
worked out in Belgium after Hitler came to power 
which had a far-reaching effect on the Belgian political 
scene. 

Meanwhile the alliance between respectable society, 
represented by the Nationalist party of Alfred Hugen- 
berg, and the Nazis had become closer. Hugenberg 
may have well understood how to become successful 
in business, but in politics he made blunder after 
blunder and did his best to lead his party and Germany 
to disaster. In October, 1931, a great demonstrative 
gathering at Harzburg, in the Harz mountains, united 
Hugenberg’s party, the nationalist war veterans (the 
Stahlhelm)^ and the agrarian Landbund y^ith the Nazi 
party and Hitler’s brownshirts. General von Seeckt 
and Dr. Schacht, as well as leaders of heavy industry, 
were also in the new alliance. But the Nazis domin¬ 
ated the scene, and in a separate gathering of the 

270 



The Mew BaTbarians Appear 

Nazi Reichstag group, they were impudent enough to 
speak of the organizations allied with them as a dis¬ 
agreeable medley However, they said they would 
later follow Mussolini’s example and get rid of them. 
Again we saw the unholy alliance between Junker and 
heavy industry—but this time the Nazis, in real 
control, decided to betray all to whom they made 
promises. 

Soon after Harzburg, the labour movement made a 
supreme attempt to strengthen its front. The conflict 
between democracy, represented mainly by labour, 
and the reaction, backed secretly by portions of the 
army, was nearing a show-down, and we could enjoy 

civil ” liberties only when we protected them by 
our own forces. Democratic principles, not yet deeply 
rooted in the nation’s thought, were challenged by 
the militant forces of the totalitarian crew. That 
was why labour unions, labour sport organizations, 
and the republican militia united and organized 
their special fighting detachments into the Iron 
Front. The move awakened great hopes and new 
courage. Alas ! it was not to prove its practical 
fighting value in the decisive moment. Only in minor 
skirmishes in and around meeting-places, and in guard¬ 
ing the People’s Houses and labour property from 
Nazi attacks, did it prove useful. Though it showed 
a courage that entitled it to more decisive tasks, it 
never presented a united labour front. Dr. Breit- 
scheid, the leader of the Socialist Reichstag group, 
realizing the extreme seriousness of the hour, in a 
great speech at a public meeting in Darmstadt, pro¬ 
posed to the Communists a cessation of the differences 
that separated the two movements. He offered co- 

271 



Toni Sender 

operation in the fight against Hitler’s fascism. The 
next day, November i6, 1931, he received a sneering 
answer in the Rote Fahne, the Communist newspaper 
in Berlin : “ Our chief enemy is the Social Democratic 
party ” ! 

Was the situation hopeless ? One could not help 
getting this impression. How often in the plenary 
hall of the Reichstag were we confronted with the 
grotesque picture of the Nazi, Frick, in eager con¬ 
versation with the Communist, Torgler. They were 
planning their tactics together. Through this com¬ 
bination, repeated amnesties were agreed upon— 
usually with Nazis as the chief beneficiaries. Nazi 
criminals, whenever they were sentenced to jail, felt 
pretty sure that their detention would not last long. 
The agreement on tactics also extended to the handing 
of votes of no confidence in the Briining government. 
To what constructive end could this collaboration 
ever lead ? There was no possibility of the formation 
of a new government by extreme Right and extreme 
Left. Who could profit from chaos ? Certainly not 
a disunited labour movement ! 

An attentive observer in the Reichstag could, in 
those early years, make a useful study of Nazi methods 
and techniques. The Nazi members not only were 
uniformed but behaved like obedient soldiers. Al¬ 
though most of their leaders had been of age for 
service during the World War, their type of patriot¬ 
ism had permitted them to stay behind the front. Dr. 
Wilhelm Frick, their leader, now Minister of the 
Interior, had remained an official in Pirmasens while 
workers were sacrificing their lives on the battlefields. 
Dr. Frick had a peculiar concept of duty anyway. As 

272 



The New Barbarians Appear 

a high executive of the Munich police when the 
Independent Social Democratic member of the 
Bavarian diet, Gareis, was murdered, he had helped 
the murderers escape across the border and had given 
them counterfeit passports. 

Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi philosopher, a definitely 
Slavic type, lived in the Baltic states during the war. 
He was a Russian subject, and when I asked him during 
a violent scene in the ‘ committee on foreign affairs, 
“Where were you during the World War?’’ he 
became pale and furious and said he would not answer 
my question. 

Goebbels, the dwarf with the clubfoot and the face 
of a villain, who had studied with the financial help 
of the Catholic Church, naturally was in a warm 
home while workers were suffering and bleeding in 
the dirt of the trenches. Nevertheless, he had the 
insolence, in one of his speeches from the tribune of 
the Reichstag, to point with his finger at the Socialist 
group and to call it the “ party of the deserters 
Protests came from all decent people present. White 
with rage, our young, highly capable, and courageous 
friend, Dr. Kurt Schumacher, asked for the floor. 
Schumacher had fought for four years in the war. 
Several times he had been seriously wounded. His 
back was covered with scars, his right arm lost. He 
went up to the tribune and in a short extemporaneous 
speech showed the Nazis’ true face, declaring that 
their success was due to their appeal to the meanest 
instinct in the human being—“ Ihr habt an den inneren 
Schweinehund im Menschen appelliert^\ or, in English, 
You have appealed to the swinish instincts of the 
human being.” 


273 



Toni Sender 

How did the very frequent “ spontaneous out¬ 
breaks ” of the Nazi group in the Reichstag happen ? 

I watched them carefully, observed especially Her¬ 
mann Goring, who had his special function : to repre¬ 
sent the upper middle classes in the Hitler movement. 
He also made some efforts to appear better educated 
than the mass of his party. However, observing him, 

I recognized his method. I saw him on different 
occasions secretly organizing his brownshirts for riots 
during the sittings of the Reichstag. And when 
disorder broke out, as prepared, he would stand at 
the front of the group and pretend to quieten his friends 
while actually he was inciting them. After his election 
as Speaker of the Reichstag in 1932, he had an 
opportunity to display the boasted culture of an 
educated man. But the part he played then was 
anything but glorious. Incapable of mastering a 
turbulent assembly, his only means were threats of 
violence. 

“ Shut up or I shall have you expelled ”—that was 
the sum. of Goring’s wisdom. When a complicated 
vote was to be taken, he would ask the “ Marxist ” and 
former working-man Paul Lobe, at that time vice- 
president, to take the presidential chair. 

These “ old fighters ” and “ tough guys ” as their 
Fiihrer called them, did not for a moment deign to 
perform any useful work in the Reichstag. What 
they were ordered to do and what they had most 
talent for was to prevent constructive parliamentary 
labour in order to create the chaos which they hoped 
would enable them to seize power. 

Briining’s rheasures of deflation did not help to 
overcome the crisis. On the contrary, unemployment 

274 



The New Barbarians Appear 

increased and with it the desperate mood of the \4ctims. 
Nevertheless, when, in March, 1932, at a moixient of 
great excitement and restlessness, the presidential 
elections came, the vote in the first poll showed only 
30*1 per cent, of the electorate for Hitler, who was a 
candidate, while Hindenbnrg obtained 49-6 per cent, 
and Thalmann, the Communist candidate, 13 per 
cent. In the second election Hindenburg received six 
million votes more than Hitler—53 per cent, of the 
electorate against 36 per cent, for Hitler and 10 per 
cent, for Thalmann. It was an expression of the 
extreme weakness of-the German republic that there 
was a choice only between Hitler and Hindenburg 
and that no other candidate had any chance of success. 
But Hitler seemed to be defeated, and impro\dng 
economic conditions might now lead to the complete 
moral and political recovery of the German people. 
But meanwhile all means of vicious intrigue were 
put assiduously to work. Reichswehr generals, fore¬ 
most among them Schleicher, were active in Berlin, 
while the Junkers did their part on the occasion of 
Hindenburg’s visit to his East Prussian estate. By 
these combined intrigues the scene was prepared for 
Briining’s overthrow. The schemers worked the now 
famous trick that led old Hindenburg to believe that 
Briining was a Bolshevik. The President had forgotten 
that it was primarily due to Briining’s efforts that ^ he 
had been re-elected. He had been told that Briining 
wanted to expropriate the Junkers. Behind ^ thk 
accusation was the intention of one of Briining s 
cabinet members to partition the heavily mortgaged 
and practically bankrupt big Prussian estates. The 
Junkers, accustomed to count for help on the govem- 

275 



Toni Sender 

ment, pressed for a cabinet of their choice and sub¬ 
servient to their interest. 

Bruning was dismissed by Hindenburg, and his 
successor, von Papen, assembled a cabinet that was 
hostile to the repubhc—a cabinet composed mostly of 
members of the nobility. It was the pre-fascist era. 
The year 1932 became the most stormy that the 
republic had ever seen. It was a year with six elec¬ 
tions—all passions were let loose—our life became 
almost like that in an insane asylum. 

Von Papen’s cabinet from the very first day showed 
its reactionary character. All social institutions were 
attacked ; heavy new tax burdens were placed on the 
labouring masses. This government in its first weeks 
was supported by the Nazis. Von Papen had promised 
them annulment of the prohibition on the wearing of 
uniforms by private individuals which, although it 
had been pronounced much too late, nevertheless had 
hampered Nazi tactics. He had also pledged removal 
of the Prussian coalition government and, once again, 
dissolution of the Reichstag. He was naive enough to 
expect the Nazis’ continued support after he had given 
them all they wanted. 

Removal of the ban on uniforms had an immediately 
disastrous effect. Hundreds were killed by Nazis 
during the following weeks, most of them workers 
attacked while protecting meetings or labour property. 
On July 20, 1932, the Prussian coalition government, 
led by the Socialist, Otto Braun, was removed by 
military force. The state of siege declared by von 
Papen had transferred all executive powers from the 
police to the Reichswehr. This act was obviously 
illegal. Should the Prussian government and the 

276 



The Mew Barbariam Appear 

Berlin police have resisted and appealed to the workers 
to oppose the violation of the law ? I thought so, and 
I still think it should have been done. But the Prussian 
Minister of the , Interior, Karl Severing, declared to 
the Reichstag group that, weighing the possibilities, he 
felt that he had no right to sacrifice the lives of 
_ thousands of workers in a probable fight with the 
army. With all respect due to this humane considera¬ 
tion, I still think it would have been better for the 
, German workers to risk their lives in a fight for freedom 
than, to die miserably behind the Barbed wire of 
concentration camps a few months later. 

One serious objection to my attitude was voiced : 
How can the workers fight when they are disunited ? 
Had not the Communists but a short time before 
combined with the Nazis in a referendum aiming at 
the overthrow of the same Prussian cabinet that had 
now been overthrown by the army ? Indeed, the 
situation was as complicated as possible. The elec¬ 
toral campaign took place in a.n atmosphere of cNil 
war. The republican militia was daily engaged in 
hard and responsible duty. How, many of them gave 
their lives is unknown. They had' often to march for 
hours. Many of them vrere unemployed and under¬ 
nourished. But they were men of a high idealism, 
and, I cannot think of them without a deep feeling of 
gratitude and admiration. 

It was during 1932 that , I had with Pro,fessor 
Dessauer of the Catholic party a conversation wBich 
turned from, our common parliamentary w^ork to 
the general political situation. I w^as more than sur¬ 
prised when Professor Dessauer asked: “ Don*’t you 
think, Frau Sender, it would be wiser th.at we, the 

277 T 



Toni Sender 

Catholics^ take the Nazis into the cabinet and educate 
them ? 

‘^For God’s sakcj Professor, don’t make that mis¬ 
take ! ” I exclaimed. “ Educating the Nazis is 
attempting an impossible task—they cannot be edu¬ 
cated. Haven’t you seen their faces ? There could 
be no sanity in such a government. The Catholics 
would not educate the Nazis ; the Nazis would throw 
the Catholics out ! ” 

Professor Dessauer was expressing an idea which 
was also in the mind of Dr. Pruning—^it only proved 
that they had not yet recognized the true nature of 
Nazi fascism. 

The elections of July, 1932, were elections by terror. 
Uniformed Nazis appeared by thousands in the streets, 
heavily armed. They were very young men, a great 
number of them living in storm-troop barracks, 
receiving food and shelter and a small wage. They 
were encouraged by the attitude of the courts—the 
judges were more intimidated than the rest of the 
people and therefore very lenient towards Nazi de¬ 
fendants. In this atmosphere of murder and terror, 
the Nazis more than doubled their Reichstag vote— 
they won 36-9 per cent, of the electorate, the highest 
straight party vote ever attained by them as long as 
Germany was free to vote. 

Immediately afterwards came the night of the long 
knives ”, previously promised by the Nazis. It started 
in East Prussia. Storm troopers threw bombs into the 
houses of political opponents, broke into homes, and 
shot men before the eyes of their wives. Dynamite 
attacks on the houses of Socialists, Communists, and 
middle-class opponents of the Nazis followed. One 

278 



The Mew Barbarians Appear 

of tile most ghastly acts was cormnitteci in Potempaj 
in Upper Silesia. Five heavily armed storm troopers 
entered the house of an agricultural worker during 
the night. They dragged the man out of his bed and, 
before the eyes of his mother, jumped on him with 
their heavy boots, until, his throat tom, he gave up 
his life. 

When the court could not avoid sentencing to death 
the men who committed this ghastly bestiality, it was 
Adolf Hitler who wired the murderers : 

“ My comrades, I feel united with you in unlimited 
fidelity.” 

All that remained of a civilized world was appalled. 


279 



XII 

ESCAPE FROM TERROR 


This was the kind of opposition I had to deal with 
in my meetings : During one of the campaigns of 1932 
we organized a mass rally in Dresden’s biggest meeting 
place, the Circus. Soon after I arrived, my eyes 
began to burn painfully, and my mouth and nose felt 
irritated. I suddenly felt sick. Nazis had appeared 
to break up the meeting. They had brought with 
them stink-bombs, which they threw from the 
balconies around the speaker’s platform. I saw faint¬ 
ing men and women carried out on stretchers. But 
they would not succeed, Otto Braun and I—^we were 
to- be the speakers—said to ourselves. Our throats 
badly affected, we summoned all our energy and made 
our speeches. 

Another time, when I came out of a hall to take 
my car, the chauffeur told me : “All the tyres have 
been cut. From now on we must watch the cars 
during your talks.” 

It was late in the night when I came out of another 
meeting-place after a hard fight with the Nazis. One 
of the policemen sent to watch the gathering asked to 
see me alone. 

“ I have just been informed that a Nazi motor-cycle 
squad is waiting for you at the cross-roads outside the 

280 



Escape from Terror 

village near the woods. I have been ordered to^ warn 
you not to use that road on your way back,” he said. 

We had to drive in the opposite direction to avoid 
our would-be attackers. 

My Berlin apartment was in Wilmersdorf, a middle- 
class district made up largely of new buildings. On 
every possible occasion all the apartments around mine 
hoisted the swastika. The only red flag fluttered from 
my windows—but not for very long, for the Nazis 
would bring it down. I bought another one and 
during the next election campaign it would again 
anger the brownshirts of my neighbourhood. They 
became more violent. Stones w^ere thrown through 
my windows. From the summer of 1932 on, they 
found another way to make life miserable for me. They 
would call me up at any and all times of the night. 
Posing as friends, they would try to get information 
from me. I had, however, become veiy" careful, having 
been' advised by informed persons that my telephone 
wire was tapped, • It became a nerve-racking life. 

• There were still other methods short of physical 
attack that could be used by the type of people we 
now had to deal with. The German Nationalists,. 
Hugenberg’s party, published an election book of 
c.aricatures and devoted a paragraph in it to me. .In 
the introduction they asserted that I had sex appeal, 
and then they wrote a parody on . the song Marlene 
Dietrich ■ sang in her first film, The Blue Angel. The 
parody w^ent: 

Ich bin don Kopf zu Fusse 
aiifs Centrum eingestellt 
Das ist meine politische Halbwelt 
und sonst gar nichts. 

281 



Toni Sender 

I am from head to foot 
In the Centrists’ bond. 

That is my political demimonde. 

And nothing else matters. 

This parody was printed 'in newspapers through¬ 
out Europe and America. Of course, it became well 
known in Germany. 

All my political friends were indignant. The execu¬ 
tive of our parliamentary group decided that I had 
to sue the editors of the book. My dear friend Otto 
Landsberg, a lawyer and one of the most cultured 
men I have ever met, took the case. He applied for 
an injunction to halt further circulation of the publica¬ 
tion as injurious to my honour as a woman. The 
appeal was turned down by the county court as well 
as by the superior court. It was expecting too much 
of our judges to think we could find justice at their 
hands. These gentlemen saw the rising wave of 
fascism and had themselves begun the process of 
co-ordination. 

It was not long afterwards that a number of people 
informed me of a slander that was being systematically 
spread against me by Nazis of my constituency. In 
streets and public houses they were saying nothing 
more nor less than that I was a prostitute. The story 
went that I led an extravagant life, that I had a 
number of expensive fur coats, but that when I went 
to workers’ meetings I donned proletarian clothes. 
The details varied somewhat, but the main feature, 
that I was a prostitute, always reappeared. After 
my recent experience with the courts I was not too 
strongly inclined to sue the slanderers. It was a vain 
hope to expect the noble justices to render justice to 

282 



. Escape from Terror 

En anti-Nazi and defend the honour of a wonian. 
However^ witnesses of the slander_j people w^ho were 
not members of our party, but who respected me, 
came to the party office and offered to testify in my 
behalf in the event of a trial. The party office, there¬ 
fore, thought it was my duty to sue, feeling that the 
courageous attitude of citizens ready to testif>^ against 
the Nazis in a time when it was dangerous to do so 
could not be ignored. 

The trial came. Otto Landsberg again ivas my 
lawyer. I could not be disappointed, having only 
contempt for the majority of the judges. I was, how’- 
ever, curious to see how they would handle the case 
if our witnesses stuck to their testimony. And our 
witnesses did remain firm and told wffiat they had 
heard. But the Nazis, trusting to the judges" bias, 
found an easy w^ay out. They sent three of their men 
with orders to testify under oath that they had been 
present at the conversation (wMch our witnesses denied) 
and that they had heard my name mentioned but not 
the incriminating remark. They insisted they would 
have heard it had the remark been made. According 
to all previous practice of the courts, positive assertions 
cannot be refuted by negative ones. But in this case 
the judges declared that the conflicting statements 
cancelled each other, and they acquitted the defendant. 
That the Nazis had committed perjuiy^ did not concern 
the judges any more than did the honour of an anti- 
Nazi woman. The only thing that seemed important 
to them was the preservation of their jobs in the event 
of a Nazi victory. Those who fought fascism in 
Germany were outlawed long before the Nazis seized 
power. We had to run the gauntlet and needed strong 

283 



Toni Sender 

nerves, not only to meet the ruthlessness of Nazi 
gangsters, but also on account of the cowardice of 
those whose duty it was to ensure observance of the 
law. 

The Reichstag elected in July, 1932, did not survive 
its first meeting. When it met on September 12 
motions were presented to repeal the most anti-social 
of the decrees published by the von Papen government. 
Just at the moment this was being voted on, von 
Papen presented the order signed by the President for 
dissolution of the Reichstag. The reason given was 
the fear that the Reichstag would cancel the decrees. 
Such a cancellation, however, was the legal right of 
the Reichstag, guaranteed by the constitution. Goring, 
for the first time elected Speaker of the Reichstag, 
pretended to protest in defence of democratic rights ! 
It was a real farce—the fascists, known as despisers 
of the constitution, playing the role of its defenders ! 

I attended the meetings of the special committee 
that exercised the rights of the Reichstag when that 
body was not assembled and witnessed how the Nazis 
attempted to defend the rights of the people’s repre¬ 
sentatives. They had no legal or technical knowledge, 
were inexperienced and clumsy. They came to ask 
Dr. Rudolf Breitscheid for advice. He replied with 
sarcastic humour. 

''Don’t you think,” he said, "that it is fortunate 
your Ftihrer’s intention has not yet been carried 
through ? He said before the Supreme Court in 
Leipzig that heads would roll in the sand once he 
assumed power. You could hardly get advice from 
our heads if they were rolling in the sand.” 

Why .were the Nazis suddenly opposed to new 
. 284 



Escape from Terror 

elections, they who had always striven for dissolution 
and new elections at the time of the worst depression, 
hoping to profit from the chaos? Did they know 
they were on the decline? 

Another campaign had to be fought. We lost som,e 
700,000 votes to the Communists, but the most sensa¬ 
tional fact of the election of November 6, 1932, was 
that the Nazis lost two million votes. So it was not 
an irresistible rise that gave power to these prophets of 
violence ! Economic conditions had begun, although 
slowly, to improve. 

Shortly before the elections, the Nazis used spec¬ 
tacular tactics in their bid for labour votes. They 
combined with the Communists in the leadership of a 
strike on the Berlin city-owned transport system. 
Although the workers’ poll had not resulted in the 
majority needed for a strike, a walk-out was enforced 
by violent means. I assume the employers were not 
deceived by the Nazi attitude. I know of an earlier 
strike in which the , metal workers apparently, had 
Nazi support, which didn’t in the least alarm the 
industrialists. A report which I received of a' secret 
meeting of the industrialists of Saxony showed that 
the Nazi leader had explained to them : “ Do not 
misjudge our attitude. We Nazis intend to bring you 
the workers and therefore must act in such a manner 
as to win their confidence. Later you ^^411 have no 
more trade unions, no more strikers. . . 

Never was the standard of political morality so lo w in 
Germany as when the so-called aristocrats ('“ Herrm ”) 
headed the cabinet. As a consequence of intrigues, 
.the , von Papen government was overthrown, and 
General von Schleicher’s cabinet was born. And the 

285 



Toni Sender 

general was thrown out by the very methods he had 
used to gain office. Schleicher's programmcj it must 
be admitted, gave proof of a greater understanding of 
social needs. He restored some of labour’s rights, and 
he refused to permit suppression of a tremendous 
scandal. In this last short-lived legal Reichstag of 
the republic, the Socialists uncovered great corruption 
in the form of government credits given under the 
title aid to the East ” (Osthilfe) to a small group of 
Junkers, landowners whose poor management had led 
to high indebtedness. Hermine, wife of the former 
Kaiser, and influential reactionary political leaders 
were among them» The Hindenburg family had 
received no less than 620,000 marks ! 

The history of all the intrigues that followed has not 
yet been completely revealed. However, that the 
scandal of this corruption, covered up by the Nazis, 
was the spring-board from which the fascists were to 
jump into power is a historic fact. In the house of 
the Cologne banker, Baron Kurt von Schroder, the 
pact between Hitler and the President was sealed with 
the help of the master intriguer, Franz von Papen. 
By the end of January Adolf Hitler was Chancellor 
of Germany—the man who two months before was in 
a desperate mood because he saw himself faced with 
failure. He had achieved his goal. He would now 
show how fascists run elections. 

Immediately he set out to lay the foundations for 
a Nazi state. Almost every day a new high official was 
driven from office and a died-in-the-wool Nazi put in 
his place. A systematic transformation was going on 
in the police power. I was highly alarmed. Would 
we let them gradually but surely come into power 

286 



Escape from Terror 

mAout any resistance by the workers? Impossible. 
Why had we built the Iron Front, made all kinds of 
preparations, if not to fight ? If we waited too lon<r 

might be too late. A few days after Hider had 
become Chancellor, I was working in my office at the 
magazine Frauenwelt and decided to go up to the office 
of the party executive, located in the same building, 
to talk matters over with the party heads. I met onlv 
comrade C. ' 

“ Comrade C.,” I told him, “ I think the time 
has come to give an indication to the Iron Front 
that we must resist the establishment of fascism in 

Germany/’ 

“ In what way should the fight be started ? The 
others have the arms.” 

“ I know. But we have still one powerful weapon, 
used successfully before—the general strike,” I 
answered. 

“ But Toni, what would be the immediate cause of 
this strike—^with what slogan could we rally the 
workers ? ” 

Don’t you see that the Nazis are beginning to 
penetrate all key positions of the state and the adminis¬ 
tration ? If we have any thought of resisting counter¬ 
revolution, this may be our last chance. Hider won’t 
offer us an easy slogan—but the masses will imder- 
stand.” 

Comrade C. shook his head. He did not think the 
right moment had arrived, and while we were still 
talking. Professor Decker, a common fiiend, joined us. 

“ Toni wants a general strike now,” Comrade C. 
greeted Professor Decker. “ What do vou think of 
it?” 


287 



Toni Sender 

Decker did not commit himself—and I left gravely 
concerned about further developments. 

I had to leave for my constituency. Another elec¬ 
toral campaign, the first under Nazi rule, had started. 
It seemed obvious that the Nazis could not obtain 
a majority by legal means. Therefore we had to be 
prepared for all kinds of surprises. They had their 
chance now and would not let it be wrested from 
them. I was asked by Socialists in many constituencies 
outside my own to come and help them. I did as 
much as I could. Of course, I would help my old 
friends in Hamburg, in Bremen. All these meetings 
were held despite threats by the Nazis, with the police 
as a rule helping the fascists by notifying me that I 
had no right to attack the government! An anti¬ 
fascist campaign without the right to criticize the 
fascists in power ! But everywhere I met a fine 
fighting spirit among the Socialist workers. My 
impression was that they were only waiting for the 
order from the central body of the movement to fight 
for their rights and their freedom. 

I decided to stop in Berlin for a few hours on my 
way back to Dresden. I wanted to talk to the party 
executive, to make sure that there was a decision to 
fight before all was lost. I had not been in my 
apartment more than a few minutes when my telephone 
beU rang. 

“ HeUo I ” the voice said. “ I wanted to know if 
you were in—^if so I shall come. Please wait.” 

“AH right. I shall wait for you.” 

Although he had not given his name, I recognized 
the voice of a good friend who until a short time 
before had been a minister of state. He soon arrived. 

288 



Escape from Terror 

_ “ I have only a few minutes,” he said at once. “ I 
did not call you from my house. It would have been 
too dangerous. I have important information for you. 
An officer of the brownshirt army told me that your 
name is on a black Ust with those of three oWr 
persons [whom he named to me]. Something grave 
will happen to you about March 5. I don’t know 
whether before or after. At any rate, his ad\ice to 
you is to vanish as quickly as possible.” 

“ Thank you ever so much for this real friendship,” 
I replied. “For the time being, however, I cannot 
do anything but go on with the fight. As long as it 
is still possible, I shall go back to my constituency. 
I hope to see you again. If not, I shall never forget 
your service to me.” 

But before going back to Dresden I looked up the 
president and Reichstag leader of om: party, Otto 
Weis. He came to speak to me alone, as I had 
requested. 

“ Comrade Weis,” I said, “ you told me some time 
ago that the labour movement had decided to fight 
the decisive battle against fascism. I have been 
around the cotmtry and have gained the impression 
that the men of the Iron Front are waiting for your 
orders. I know all the difficulties of the present hour. 
I am aware of the fact that w'e haven’t the arms. 
It may be that our fight will not end in victory—even 
in that case it is better to be defeated in a battle than 
to lose without a struggle. Should the labour move¬ 
ment be forced rmderground, we can appeal to the 
workers only if we have first used whatever is left of 
our power to prevent them from becoming enslaved.” 

“ I know it, Toni. And take this word with you,” 
289 



Toni Sender 

Weis repHed. “We shall fight—probably before 
March 5.” 

The answer encouraged me. It enabled me to go 
on with the fight, to take new chances. I was con¬ 
vinced that Otto Weis meant what he said to me— 
and I still think so. What the powers were that 
prevented him from carrying out this intention I never 
learned exactly. My impression is that at the decisive 
moment the trade union leadership decided they 
could not follow the party’s lead. And, of course, 
the trade unions had to be the basis of any resistance. 

Confident, I took the train for Dresden. For the 
following Sunday we had planned a great open-air 
rally in a stadium. It was cold and the ground was 
covered with snow. But our Dresden labour move¬ 
ment was composed of tried, reliable men and women. 
Never shall I forget the sight of those sixty-five thousand 
standing in the snow on that cold Sunday afternoon. 

I thought of my talk with Comrade Weis and spoke 
to them, aware of the gravity of the moment, but 
encouraging them for the struggle to come. Before 
I began, a poHce officer had warned me to be “ care¬ 
ful ”. And during my short speech he stepped forward 
several times to repeat his warning—^but I finished my 
talk without disturbance. 

The report of the meeting in next day’s Dresden 
Nazi paper was menacing. The government of 
Saxony was asked to muzzle me. But I went on 
addressing my meetings. After the last speech of 
Monday night, February 28 ,1 met in the main Dresden 
station my friend Wilhelm Sander, the party’s district 
secretary, and his wife. We were startled by a hews 
flash : “ The Reichstag is in flames.” Our suspicion 

290 



Escape from Ter tor 

Aat only the^ Nazis could be interested in bavin? the 
Reichstag building burn down found confirmation in 
the way the Nazis broadcast the news aU the following 
day. They had shown that they would not hesitate 
to take any criminal step. 

In Dresden they pubhshed a paper called the 
Judenspiegel (Jews’ Mirror). The entire first page was 
covered with my picture and under it the text hinted 
that I ought to be done away with. 

The atmosphere around me became feverish. 
Streets were crowded with heavily armed brown- 
shirts, one, sometimes two, revolvers in their belts. 
Some had hand grenades. Since almost everybody 
knew me in Dresden to walk by myself through the 
crowded streets became a venture. I went to the party- 
office, and while I was discussing the situation with 
Sander, one of our leading comrades arrived. Breath¬ 
lessly he asked : “ Have you seen the new leaflet the 
Nazis are distributing about you ? It contains an open 
threat of murder.” 

Can you let me have one? ” I answered. 

Meanwhile mass arrests had started in Berlin. One 
after another of our Social Democratic newspapers 
was prohibited—our Dresden paper, too, was sup¬ 
pressed. I continued to drive to my out-of-toivn meet¬ 
ings alone. The government of Saxony had been 
forced to take storm troopers into the police force as 
auxiharies. My meetings were protected by crowds of 
policemen ; the government was aware of the danger 
that threatened. But what odd protection, by police 
interspersed with Nazis, my enemies ! When I was 
through with a meeting in one \dllage the head of the 
police came to pay his respects to what he said was 

291 



T'oni Sender 

my courage. It was heartening to find support m such 

a quarter. . . , t j 

The campaign was nearing its end. I was warned 

from many sides of the pogrom atmosphere created 
around my name. I had always been aware of the 
fact that a person in the political battle-front in revolu¬ 
tionary or counter-revolutionary times has to be 
prepared to die an unnatural death. But I was think¬ 
ing of death in battle—not of treacherous murder. 
And I still hoped, though faintly, for the last fight. 

Every night I wondered that I was still alive. Storm 
troopers tried to arrest me in Berhn, where it had 
been announced through an error that I would speak 
at a meeting. The ring around me began to grow 

I remembered the offer of a good friend of mine, a 

“ Whenever you are in great danger, he had told 
me “ come to see me. I know every stone along the 
Czech border. I shall help you. Count on me.” 

With the help of my friends I managed to get to 
the village. I entered the house of the friend ^he was 
not in. He too had been compelled to flee. I did not 
know his wife. Did she share her husband’s convic¬ 
tions ? Could I tell her what brought me to her at this 
unusual hour ? After a short conversation, she said ; 

“ You can tell me the purpose of your coming 
you may have confidence in me. 

I trusted her. After I told her, she replied . 

I can do the job as well as my husband. Let us go 
together. I shall be ready in a few minutes. Take off 
your hat—we must travel off the roads, behind the 
houses. You must dress like a native woman. 

..202 ■ 



Escape from Terror 

Together we started to leave the house. At that 
moment a man came in. 

“ Don’t be disturbed, I just wanted to ask you if 
you know that the entire border is occupied by *^storm 
troopers/’ he said. 

, We had not known that. And he did not realize 
how valuable was his inadvertent warning. 

'' Take my arm and come with me/’ the woman 
said. '' Don’t look around or they might recognize 
you. Let us try to look absolutely innocent.” 

Our hearts beat quickly as she cautiously led the 
way. We skirted all main roads and avoided meeting 
any people—too many knew me from my years of 
campaigning in the district. Behind houses, through 
paths and fields, over creeks we went, fearing to turn 
our heads yet watching every movement, every 
.shadow. Each minute became an hour. It seemed 
as if our walking would never end. , . . 

, We are in Czechoslovakia,” the comforting w-ords 
finally came. She sensed that I was about to embrace 
her. 

; ''Nothing'of the kind,” she■ said in a low voice. 
" They may.still see us, and I must go back to my 
family across the border.” 

She accompanied me to a farm-house where there 
were Czech friends of hers. They helped me get a car 
to take me to the next small to^wn. It was a painful 
moment when I had to part from the fine, courageous 
woman. I never shall forget her. 

. Safe ! Free ! But is this Czechoslovakia—this town 
with its many swastika flags and swastika emblems? 

' The unbearable terrors seemed to have crossed the 
frontier. 


293 


0 



Toni Sender 

A friend. Dr. Kurt Lowenstein, had preceded me. 
I tried to trace him. He had been attacked by storm 
troopers in his apartment in Berlin during the night, 
had barricaded Hmself and his wife behind furniture 
in their bedroom. Dozens of shots went through their 
door—^but almost by a miracle they had escaped 
unhurt. However, the storm troopers did not give up 
their hunt. So he, too, and his brave wife, had to flee 
for their lives. 

What was our crime ? To have loved freedom too 
much. But how could I help it ? Was not my entire 
life a struggle for more liberty—^for social conditions 
under which every individual could feel and satisfy 
the need which alone makes us human ? 


294 



XIII 

REDEDIGATION 

I FOUND Kurt Lowenstein. We had to stay the few 
remaining hours of the night in the village where we 

had met. Since I was wthout Inggage, I had 
awakened the suspicion of the porter in the little inn 
and preferred to leave early the next morning. Both of 
us had friends on the Czech side of the border. I 
wanted to remain in direct contact with the workers 
of Saxony in order to be ready immediately, should 
the first sign of a fight develop. My goal, to reach the 
border town, was not without danger. The trains we 
took sometimes touched German soil, and we could 
not inquire of the train employees, most of whom 
spoke only the Czech language. 

When I finally reached my fiiend, K., he at once 
offered me asylum in his home. We immediately set 
about establishing contact with Saxony.. One day we 
would send a comrade to Germany, and the next day 
one of their men or women would come to report to 
us. We established the first news service firom the land 
of the barbarians. ^ 

The cruelties practised were worse than a normal 
imagination could conceive. The eyes of one of our 
women filled with tears as she described how her 
husband had been taken to the torture cellar of the 

295 , 



Toni Sender 

secret police and beaten until he was half dead. When 
her love and courage finally brought him out of the 
hands of the Gestapo, his physical suffering, and even 
more his mental suffering, were so terrible that he 
would no longer speak. 

The people living in the neighbourhood of the 
Dresden People’s House, stolen from us and used as 
a house of torture by the secret police, complained 
that they heard every night the cries and moaning of 
the unfortunate victims of Nazi sadism. 

For a brief while it seemed as though there would 
be resistance—the shop stewards in my constituency 
had met and deliberated and were ready to launch a 
general strike if the trade union executive of Berlin 
approved of it. The delegates sent to Berlin, however, 
brought a negative answer, so that the movement was 
stopped at its birth. There was too much discipline 
in the German working classes. 

The comradeship of the German-speaking Socialists 
of the Sudetenland will be for ever memorable. 
Frau K., with all the cares of her household on her 
shoulders, seemed never to tire in spite of the fact 
that her home became more crowded every day by an 
increasing number of refugees and messengers from 
the other side ; she always remained the friendly, 
patient hostess. How badly rewarded was her rich 
humanity, and that of many other friends. Five years 
later, when the Nazis invaded the Sudetenland, there 
was no friendly neighbour to give them a helping 
hand. The Czech republic, which they had so bravely 
supported, drove the fugitives back into the arms of 
the invader. 

In spite of Frau K.’s hospitality, I suffered a terrible 
296 



Rededicatmi 

breakdown, physically and spiritually. I had a high 
fever and was very weak—a relapse into my old 
illness. However, I could not afford to lose my energy 
at that point. I did not want my family, especially my 
mother, to learn of my whereabouts. Only in this" way 
could they in good conscience deny knowledge of my 
whereabouts, should the Nazis interrogate them. 

But physical suffering was easier to bear than the 
breakdown of morale. Had all the efforts and sacrifices 
of almost twenty years been in vain ? Was Germany 
lost for ever to the civilized world ? Did this defeat 
mean that violence is stronger than the mind and always 
will be? 

.. These doubts were torturing—^but a thorough ex¬ 
amination of them had to be made. However, after a 
short time, comrades from over the border came to 
tell us how courageous and steadfast was the spirit of 
all those who had gone through the experience and 
the schooling of our labour movement. They i¥0'uld 
not become Nazis—they could be silenced for the 
moment by means of an unparalleled terroiism, but 
their convictions would remain deep and firm. They 
felt that their day would come again. Maybe the 
nation had first to go through hell, but out of that 
terrible suffering, some day, a free nation wwld 
emerge—not the strife-torn republic of Weimar, but a 
free community, strongly rooted in a new social order. 
At least these were the words of a young comrade 
whom I met later at the border, one of the heroic 
unknown soldiers of the underground movement. 

So it had not been all in vain. The fight could stil! 
go on. Not any longer in the country where I had 
been born—but wherever in the world people are 

297 



Toni Sender 

striving for social justice, genuine freedom, and 
humanity, one may feel the atmosphere of a homeland. 

My friends in Czechoslovakia offered me journalistic 
work there. I decided, however, not to accept it— 
for two reasons. One was the geography of the Czech 
repubhc, in connection with Hitler’s programme as 
expressed in Mein Kampf, and the second the expecta¬ 
tion that many more refugees would come to a land 
where they could use their own German language. 
Since I knew other languages, I could well wander 
farther. My thought was Paris. 

On my way to the French capital I stopped in 
Belgium. I wanted to establish contact again with my 
family. I was surprised and happy to meet my mother 
at my sister’s house in Antwerp. She had come only 
on a visit, not yet aware that it would become her 
home. 

I had scarcely arrived in Antwerp when my old 
friend Willem Eekelers called me up. He wanted to 
see me, wanted me to write for their daily newspaper, 
the Volksgazet, to explain the strange events in Ger¬ 
many. Willem showed not only genuine understand¬ 
ing, but also true comradeship. It happened that 
there was a vacancy in the editorial department of 
the Volksgazet. He would propose me as an editorial 
writer on foreign affairs. Sooner than I could have 
expected, I was settled. I had to study the Flemish 
language, spoken almost exclusively in this part of 
Belgium. My colleagues on the paper received me in 
a fine spirit, and especially the managing editor, 
AdoLf Molter, proved to be a person of rare tact and 
culture. I slowly recovered physically, and was kept 
busy in my new task. 


298 



Rededication 

Camille HuysmanSj the director of the paperj who 
came in the early hours every morning to 'dictate Ms 
columnj was at the same time mayor of the citv and 
its member of the Chamber. I knew Hm well^ from 
the many international conventions we had both 
attended, and also from our national party conven¬ 
tions, to wMch he had been a fraternal delegate. He 
is one of the most striking figures in the international 
labour movement. Tall and very slender, he seems to 
personify Mephistopheles, whom he loves, and to 
whom he attributes many amiable qualities. Camille 
loved by all the people of Ms city, including those 
who do not vote for Mm, has very diversified interests 
and has even tried Ms hand at writing plays. He 
stood courageously throughout the wa.r for Ms con¬ 
victions as an internationalist, having been before 
the war the secretary of the Second International. But 
the outlaw of 1914 showed such strength of character 
that he later became the respected Speaker of the 
Belgian Chamber. Camille was almost always in good 
humour, and he brought a cheerful spirit to our com¬ 
mon workroom. There was only one important 
disagreement between us : Camille insisted that I 
should marry, although I doubt whether Ms owm 
philosophy would have prevented Mm firom enjoying 
life without a licence. 

..I.soon became active in the labour movement, con¬ 
ducted a study class for young women, and addressed 
some public meetings in the Flemish language. How¬ 
ever, in spite of all the friendsMp shown, to me, I felt 
very, lonely. What was more important, I d.oubted 
whether it was a really useful life I was leading in 
tMs „ Flemish city of small Belgium. It was like a step 

299 



Toni Sender 

into freedom, into real life, when upon an invitation 
from friends received in 1934, I could go on a three 
months’ lecture tour to the United States, a tour that 
carried me across the continent from coast to coast. 
Another invitation reached me by the end of 1935. I 
accepted gratefully, and this time I travelled through 
most of the southern states. What a vast, wonderful, 
young country !—the majority of its people open- 
minded, less prejudiced than on the old continent, 
and with a ready acceptance of fraternity that reflects 
the best traditions of pioneer times. Would I not feel 
much more at home here, and perhaps some day be 
able to make my contribution to America? 

When the lecture tour was over and I had to think 
of going back to Belgium and to my position on the 
newspaper there, I hesitated. Going back meant 
security and proximity to Germany, with the possibility 
of contact with old friends. But was it also a useful 
life ? On the other hand, staying in, or rather 
returning to, the United States also presented prob¬ 
lems. It would open to me the chance to become a 
citizen of a free and democratic nation—to start life 
anew and to render service to the new country of my 
choice—^yet it would also mean a rather difficult 
struggle for a livelihood. But I made up my mind— 
far better a full, interesting life than economic 
security ! 

One chapter of my life was closed. No, I would not 
forget the German working classes ; I would always 
feel very near to them as well as to the better, the 
decent Germany. Should there at any moment arise 
a movement against the gang that at present dis¬ 
honours the German people, should a revolutionary 

300 



Rededication 

movement attempt to get rid of Nazism, and my friends 
over there think my ser\ice useful for the cause, I 
would not question for a moment my duty to rush 
there and help them. That I shall ever desire to live 
in that country again, I doubt. Too many people 
looked on when depravity ruled. Of course, I under¬ 
stand German history better perhaps than many 
Germans who .have never been outside their own 
country and thus had no opportunity to compare their 
own development with that of other nations. I, at 
least, can discern what led up to the present, situation. 

Revolutions in Germany have never been com¬ 
pleted—but counter-revolutions have been thorough,, 
complete, and cruel The new Germany of the 
republic never succeeded in abolishing completely the 
old Prussian tradition of militarism as a political 
power and the habit of blind discipline. The army 
always remained, an independent body, unass,imilated 
by republican institutions. 

The republic, although it created a great number 
of outstanding services, rights, and achievements, not 
only did not understand how to make the people of 
the nation conscious of these creations, but w-as too 
prosaic, dreary, and rational; it did not arouse the 
necessary enthusiasm for the new rights and the 
newly gained democracy. It should have realized that 
the German people had a particularly great need for 
romanticism. 

It must be said, in fairness to the German republican 
leaders, that they were not given a fair chance by 
the victorious democratic nations. Beginning with the 
armistice and the peace treaty, with the treatment of 
the republic after it signed the Versailles document, 

, , 301 



Toni Sender 

with the permanent reprisals and the humiliations of 
the young democracy, the pride of a nationally sensitive 
people was badly hurt. Add to this the fact of the 
republic’s disarmament while the promise to follow 
it by the disarmament of the victor nations never was 
kept. 

All these conditions worked together during the 
long, serious economic crisis to make a great number 
of people doubt all values, past and present. It 
resulted in their being caught by the exploiters of their 
inferiority complex, who preached the religion of 
nationalism. 

Of course, these exploiters were helped by those 
men and women of the middle classes who were 
frightened by the idea of a change in the social order 
and could see'in it only bolshevism. The masters of 
big business and high finance supported the brown- 
shirt army for the sake of preserving their own privi¬ 
leges. So great was the confidence of these men in the 
reactionary attitude of the preachers of ■ the Nazi 
creed that they did not mind the fact that, Nazi 
fascism advertised its destructive tendency as a revolu¬ 
tionary force ; the industrialists and bankers were 
convinced that the Nazis would save their social posi¬ 
tion and economic privileges. However, the Nazis 
betrayed not only the small men, but to some extent 
also the financiers. Private ownership of the means of 
production still exists—but the owner of property 
may not freely dispose of it. The state, as represented 
by the ruling gang, has become almighty, controlling 
not only all intellectual, religious, and social life, but 
also all business activity. The once so proud property 
owner may, for instance, no longer use his own judg- 

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ment in the investment of the capital accumiilated 
through his enterprise, but has to Mow the orders 
of Hermann Goring and the dictators of the four-year 
plan. ^ Everything is subordinated to the purpose of a 
gigantic preparation for war. 

Into this preparation for war fascism, forces other 
European countries and also the entire world. F.ascisiii 
has developed the tendency to become a world religion, 
spreading propaganda all over the world with the 
help of government finances. Democracy is chal¬ 
lenged over the entire globe. Will the era of freedom 
come to an end ? 

It must not be so. x 4 nd the United States may have 
j the historic mission to set an example. Its vast land, 

■ its rich natural resources, the youth of the country 
and the open-mindedness and optimism of the people, 
offer the statesmen of the nation ,an outstandiiig 
opportunity—a c.hance to build up a well-functio,iiiiig 
democracy, adapt the concepts inherited from the 
. past, to the needs of o.ur present day, tliink over 
the great ideals of democracy and bring them to life. 
Political democracy not only is challenged but is in 
, actual danger unless it is accompanied by the establish¬ 
ment of social justice. 

However, the most far-sighted statesman cannot be 
successful if we are not able to maintain weil-function- 
ing 'democratic machinery. WTiat is it that makes 
fascism attractive to some people ? First, that it is able 
.to act quickly and efficiently; second, its apparent 
unification of the nation. A closer exa,minatio,n5 how¬ 
ever, shows that fascist efficiency destroys all the 
cultural and moral values of a nation, while its unifica¬ 
tion of the nation is only a unity in fear of terror. 

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Toni Sender 

Democracy can challenge fascism by setting an example 
of genuinely free institutions capable of rapid function¬ 
ing, especially in the emergencies that arise continually 
in this period of modern industrialism. A democracy’s 
institutions, therefore, have to be adapted constantly 
to the needs of the time in order to maintain the 
fundamentals of liberty. 

Fortunately, the people of the United States are 
less prejudiced and more open-minded than the peoples 
of the old continent. They may, therefore, be able 
to demonstrate the possibility of a free people’s 
achieving greater unity on a number of broad issues 
—a unity not only against those things we detest, like 
war and fascism, but in favour of those institutions 
which make possible a workable democracy. 

However, there must be a well-informed public 
opinion. Adult education cannot be considered a side¬ 
show of democracy ; it is not a luxury of extraordinary 
times; it is a regular ingredient of democracy. A 
healthy instinct of the people of America has made 
many of them appreciate the need and value of a 
well-informed public opinion. I know of no country 
where open forums and discussion groups of all kinds 
are so popular as there. Let the sophisticated European 
smile at them—he may have ceased to be of great use 
to us. And let us build on our fruitful beginning by 
giving the youth of the nation a thorough education 
for good citizenship and by developing further adult 
education so that it may accomplish its function of 
creating an alert, well-informed, intelligent public. 

Hitler has deprived me of my citizenship and 
property. It was the punishment for my love for 
liberty. I was a woman without a country until I 

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Rededication 

went to the United States. Here love for freedom is 
an asset and not a liability. Bold and new ideas are 
permitted: here it is still worth while to place your 
modest capacity at the disposal of the common good. 

^ Liberty is to me not only an indispensable element 
of life, but also an obligation—an obligation to^vards 
the community that grants me the piiiilege of be¬ 
coming one of its members. I thank America for 
accepting me and giving me an opportunity to start 
a new chapter of my life, a chapter that I ml! devote 
to the cultivation of the ideals for which the best of 
mankind has fought and died. 



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